Last school year, 42 eighth graders from five Catholic elementary schools in Brooklyn gave up an extra hour of morning sleep to arrive at St. Edmund Preparatory H.S., Sheepshead Bay, for New York State Regents-level high school classes in science and math.
The students from Mary Queen of Heaven, Old Mill Basin; St. Edmund Elementary School and St. Mark, Sheepshead Bay; Good Shepherd, Marine Park; and Midwood Catholic Academy, Flatlands, took either Honors Earth Science or Integrated Algebra as part of the High School Advantage Program, a pilot launched by St. Edmund Prep. After taking the advanced classes, which meet at 7:30 a.m., a bus picks up the students at the high school and drops them at their nearby schools for the remainder of their daily classes.
by Gail Donovan
It didn’t matter to the students that were starting their day nearly an hour before their peers, that they had a full day of classes waiting for them at their home school, or that they were attending a class with students from other schools. What clearly mattered was they were able to take advantage of attending a high school class last year, while still in the eighth grade.
“You come in here to get ahead in math studies so when you’re in ninth grade you can take 10th grade math, in 10th grade take 11th grade math, and eventually your senior year, take college math,” Ryan Monahan from Good Shepherd explained.
Matt DeSilva, from St. Edmund Elementary School, said, “We’re capable of doing the work and we should give ourselves something new to try.”
Midwood Catholic Academy student Cassidy Wray was chosen by her principal to take the advanced math class and said she didn’t mind getting up early because she enjoyed being challenged in the class.
Guy LaCognata, of Good Shepherd, said he liked the program because he was able to take advanced math as well as meet new people from other schools.
“The kids truly feel privileged to be participating in the program,” said Jeannie Callahan, principal of St. Edmund Elementary School. “They are definitely very motivated.”
Callahan said the High School Advantage Program is also offering elementary school students in the Brooklyn cluster an enhanced arts program, including two bands that meet three times a week under the direction of the St. Edmund Prep staff.
More than 30 students from Mary Queen of Heaven, St. Edmund, Good Shepherd, and Midwood Catholic, as well as St. Bernard, Mill Basin; Our Lady of Grace, Gravesend; and Our Lady of Trust, Canarsie, have expressed interest in joining the Cadet Band for beginners or the Concert Band for more advanced musicians.
“We’re delighted that St. Edmund Prep is offering the High School Advantage Program because it will enable participating elementary schools to expand and enhance their school’s curriculum,” said diocesan Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Thomas Chadzutko.
High Schoolers Serve as Models
Other programs planned by St. Edmund Prep through the High School Advantage include art, literacy circles, tutoring, and retreat days. St. Edmund Prep students will assist with the offerings and serve as models for academic excellence.
“The High School Advantage Program will serve as a gateway to 21st century learning,” said John Lorenzetti, St. Edmund Prep principal. “Our goal is to enable participating schools to build their technological capabilities by adding SMART Boards and video conferencing; engage in distance learning activities; and implement on-site collaborative educational models that will enhance and expand the curriculum in these Catholic elementary schools.”