Right in my backyard, Catholic High Schools are growing!!!
I graduated from St. Anthony's a long time ago. It is amazing to see how much it has grown since my time.
Bucking a national trend, enrollment at most of Long Island's Catholic high schools is strong and holding steady, even as falling numbers of students in the diocese's elementary schools forced closures and the region's economy struggles to regain its pre-recession footing.
Seven of the 10 high schools showed enrollment gains over the decade from the 2003-04 school year through 2012-13, while three saw declines. One school, the all-girls Academy of St. Joseph in Brentwood, closed in 2009.
The stability on Long Island stems from a combination of factors -- the number of Catholics here and families' desire to have their children in a faith-based high school; the institutions' academic rigor, traditions and strict rules; and the modest tuition cost compared with other private schools.
Chaminade High School in Mineola, with a $40 million endowment supported by loyal alumni, is attracting students from as far away as New Jersey and has to reject about 65 percent of applicants annually. Kellenberg Memorial High School in Uniondale is at capacity and, like Chaminade, turns away hundreds of applicants each year.
The student body at St. Anthony's in South Huntington, which features a $34 million student center, is near all-time highs. And Our Lady of Mercy Academy in Syosset, one of two all-girls Catholic high schools on the Island, operates a van service to the village's train station to pick up students whose hometowns range from the Hamptons to Bayside, Queens.
The upward trend is repeated at Bishop McGann-Mercy High School in Riverhead, Sacred Heart Academy in Hempstead and St. John the Baptist High School in West Islip, state Department of Education figures show. St. Dominic High School in Oyster Bay has seen some losses, but expects a new $7.5 million science center to boost enrollment.
For those eight schools, enrollment has risen to 10,196 in the 2012-13 school year from 9,473 a decade ago.
While our Catholic schools may not be perfect, it is good to see that people will still seek out a Catholic education for their children when they can afford it.