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Back to school: area high school students return to their desks

OPEN YOUR TEXTBOOKS — The sun was shining on Immaculata Academy, as the private school kicked off the 2013 – 2014 school year. Photo by Alicia Greco.
HAMBURG — The sun will begin to set sooner and the leaves will turn red, orange and brown and crumble into piles. For the past couple of weeks, local students have been preparing for the upcoming year.

High schools in the area kicked off the 2013 – 2014 academic year in various way and each district has its own stated mission for the upcoming months.

Brent Jordan is serving as interim principal at Hamburg High School, which hosts roughly 1,200 students.

“[We] really want to see our students be successful in all academic areas,” he said, adding that the school is focusing on making sure that the students are “challenged in all areas. And also to be successful.”

Jordan said that he believes that the best feature about the local school is the support between the students, teachers and outside community. The school “has a very caring atmosphere; everywhere from the teachers to teacher aids to custodial staff. It is student-centered goal, here at Hamburg,” he said.

“The support from the parents and the community has been a huge benefit; it’s something that shows through our students throughout the year,” Jordan added.

To begin the year, the high school already hosted an open house on Sept. 5, in addition to the unveiling of its new LED sign. On Sept. 6, the high school held its kickoff football game against Grand Island.

Homecoming week will take place Sept. 23 – 27. “There’s a bonfire and a powder puff football game,” said Jordan. The annual homecoming dance will take place on the Sept. 28.

With a new sign and major renovations within the school itself, Jordan said it has been a great start to the year, so far. “The hall is alive again.”

Immaculata Academy rang in the new academic year with an 85th anniversary school year Mass, led by Bishop Richard Malone.

“When I saw you come in with many, many smiles, I knew it wasn’t because I was here, but because you survived your first day back,” Malone said, during the Sept. 4 Mass.

An event Kim Marciniak, director of marketing and communications at Immaculata, said she is looking forward to is the Locks of Love charity fundraiser scheduled for October. Organized by Lisa Schuler, along with the Character Club, the event will take place at 1:30 p.m. on Oct. 17. It will include haircuts on stage and a collection of financial and hair donations.

According to Marciniak, the count of Immaculata students has stayed relatively consistent, during the years. This year’s enrollment is approximately 200 students, which Marciniak said gives a more individualized sense of attention to the classroom. “It’s a good number to be at,” she added.

The school’s stated mission is “to make every day count,” according to Marciniak, and “make every day be a memory and something you can look back on and be proud of.”

She said that girls come into their own, while attending the school. She added that many freshmen begin their four-year journey very reserved but, by senior year, they will have “stepped out of their comfort zone.”

In addition to the opening Mass, a traditional powder puff football game will be held between juniors and seniors on the front lawn of the school. The Mater Christi Gala on Oct. 17 will be held to award those that live their lives reflecting the school’s mission statement: “to be instruments of positive change in society.”

The boys at St. Francis High School have a similar mission, according to Principal Tom Braunscheidel: “To prepare our young men to go out and do good with what they have learned.”

The local high school has expanded its technology program, this year. Teachers and students are now able to access the Internet from anywhere on campus, due to the investment in a wireless network. As the year progresses, the school will start to allow students and teachers to use iPads® and other wireless devices in the classroom.

The best feature of St. Francis, according to Braunscheidel, is its focus on the whole person. He said that, with an education rooted in gospel values, the school helps to influence and shape young men to provide service to society.

Enrollment this year is at a total of 515; the freshman class is larger more than last year’s, with a total of 140 students.

Like Immaculata, St. Francis also opened its academic year with a Mass, on Sept. 4. Afterward, academic letters were awarded to students for performance from the year prior; students who earned a cumulative GPA of 90 or above received an academic letter that was embossed with the “Lamp of Knowledge.”

In Eden, the junior/senior high school has had some transformations for the upcoming school year. “We’ve had a lot of changes,” said Superintendent Sandra Anzalone. The building, which houses 776 students in grades seven – 12, used to run on a block schedule with 75-minute periods; it now operates in eight 42-minute periods.

“Our biggest mission with the school is always to increase vigor and shoot for 100 percent graduation rate for our kids,” Anzalone said. The school’s second stated goal is “to really work on having a very positive culture. The more positive the schools can be, the more comforted the parents can be about the students.”

Eden’s opening day was Sept. 3. Open house events are coming up and the homecoming festivities are scheduled to begin the week of Sept. 23; the events will include a bonfire and a football game. A new addition to homecoming week is the “Raider Festival” that will take place from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m., before the game.

“Eden is a community that cares so much about its kids and its school that the school itself is an extraordinary place,” Anzalone said. “It’s a really awesome feeling to know that the community is there for games, academics [and] fundraising opportunities. It’s really overwhelming.”

Lake Shore High School students began their first day on Sept. 3.

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