It was a day for celebration at St. Peter Catholic Academy as hundreds of students filed into the 23rd Avenue school building in Bensonhurst. The school welcomed over two dozen new students and saw an increase in the number of nursery and pre-k students, with enrollment numbers at those grade levels besting the anticipated count projected by school administration.
Nursery enrollment was 37 – two more than projected. Pre-k brought in 35 – five more than expected. And K-eight attracted 26 new students, bringing the total enrollment at St. Peter Academy to 294.
Parents, faculty, administration and clergy celebrated the start of the school year as one school, although the academy serves five different parishes in Bensonhurst and Bath Beach: St. Mary, Mother of Jesus; St. Frances Cabrini; St. Finbar; Most Precious Blood; and St. Dominic. The academy offers classes at 11 grade levels: nursery, pre-k and kindergarten through eighth grade.
Principal Mary Lou Reitz said that “the outstanding academic accomplishments of St. Peter Catholic Academy students and the commitment to Catholic education and Catholic values by faculty and the academy board of directors is what drives new students to the high-performing school.
“The demographics of the five-parish area that St. Peter Academy serves have changed in recent years. But our firm commitment to a well-rounded Catholic education is what drives the new immigrant groups, regardless of their family religion, to send their children to St. Peter Catholic Academy. Parents know that Catholic education is a solid education.”
The principal estimates that almost one-third of students are not Catholic, with most of the non-Catholic contingent coming from Chinese families.
“These parents know the long history of Catholic education in America, and they have respect for our academic and moral traditions. They also know, for example, that 100 percent of Brooklyn and Queens Catholic high school students graduate, versus less than 70 percent of public school students in New York City,” she said.
St. Peter Academy challenges its students to grow academically, socially, emotionally and spiritually.
“St. Peter Academy focuses on the formation of the whole pupil-scholar,” said Gerard T. Mundy, board director.
“Cultivating virtue, moral reasoning and conscience, a sense of community and service and a love for others and tradition are all components of a proper Catholic education. Catholic schools aim to teach their pupil-scholars to search unceasingly for truth, to develop their God-given talents for the sake of the common good and to align mind, body and soul healthily in the quest for virtuous living.
“No public, charter or secular private school can provide to students what a Catholic education affords the minds and souls of our students. One of the greatest gifts that a family can give to a child is a proper Catholic education.”
The academy is expanding its extracurricular activities. Starting this month, a long list of new clubs and activities, such as cooking classes, exercise classes, a choir and a new school newspaper club, will be offered.
St. Peter’s boasts mathematics and science research centers, honors programs, after-school programs and Italian courses. Technologically advanced, it offers its students an Apple computer lab, and its classrooms are equipped with both SMART Boards and wireless Internet.
Coordinating with St. Mary, Mother of Jesus parish pastor, Msgr. Andrew J. Vaccari, academy students in grade levels three-to-eight participated in the parish’s four-day, 40 Hours Devotion. The grade levels took turns for 45 minutes each during which the students knelt during exposition of the Blessed Sacrament.