“When my daughter started as a freshman, she only knew five students in the community, and within a month, kids of all ages knew her name and said “hi” to her in the hallways making her feel at home. This is all thanks to the community system – one of the best programs at SJA. You just don’t see something like this in public school . . .”

By Kathy Rasmussen

My husband and I were raised in the public school system, and we instinctively enrolled our kids in public school when they were young. However, when my oldest daughter was in middle school, we started researching options for high school. High School has such an impact on a child’s future, that even though we didn’t enroll our kids in Catholic school during their elementary/middle school years, the time was right to research this option. During this research, we realized there were distinct advantages St. James Academy offered that public high schools do not.

We decided to enroll our daughter at SJA after learning about the incredible community system, the strong faith components, the health and wellness program, the dedication to learning with AP programs, the focus on community service, and the extracurricular options. We just couldn’t believe one school had all of this! We had not come across a school that had all of these active, and thriving, programs in one location! We discovered that students were excelling at SJA in many aspects of their lives, and the success stories from the seniors were so compelling that we felt we had to learn more.

When my daughter started as a freshman, she only knew five students at SJA, and within a month, kids of all ages knew her name and said “hi” to her in the hallways making her feel at home. This is all thanks to the community system – one of the best programs at SJA. You just don’t see something like this in public school. My daughter’s “house” consists of approximately 20 kids ranging equally from freshman to seniors and a teacher/sponsor. They spend every day at school together, whether it’s ten minutes playing a game, hanging out, or sometimes an hour completing community building or educational topics. These “houses” are part of a community, and there are eight communities at the school. Each community resembles an extended family, which means a new student can easily meet 100 kids during their first month of school. This community system encourages camaraderie, mentorship, friendship, fun, and fellowship. Feeling welcomed at school by upperclassman is not the norm in high schools. Having upperclassmen mentor you from day one is not the norm in high schools. Having upperclassmen know your name and smile at you in the hallways is not the norm in high schools. SJA is different because it creates such a genuine sense of community. My daughter has benefitted from the community system because she feels welcomed at school, she is encouraged to use her talents in community life, and she just has fun spending time with her housemates.

Faith is brilliantly weaved into the daily life at SJA. This was an aspect I knew was absent from our experience in public schools, but I didn’t realize what we were really missing. From annual retreats to daily prayer, to faith in extracurricular activities (such as athletics) my daughter has improved her knowledge and use of her Catholic faith. She attends mass on game days, she prays with her team, she prays in class, and she has learned more about her faith in one freshman year than all the years of SOR (and I am a SOR teacher!). The religion teachers at SJA are fantastic and inspire learning about our faith. However, the best faith attribute at SJA is the opportunity to release teenage stressors through onsite adoration, confession, and witness talks at the “draw near” events. These events encourage teenagers to come together and practice their faith in a comfortable setting right at school.

SJA teaches the value of service through “all-school serve days” and promotes individual community service through CSP (Community Service Program). The faculty and staff are role models who work right alongside the students during serve days. The value of service and the impact of serving others cannot be understated for teenagers.

Another benefit I would not have expected is the school uniforms. Especially as teenagers enter high school, having a standard school uniform helps create a climate of equality at school, eliminates clothes that could have undesirable conflicts, and streamlines morning choices (and the uniforms are less expensive in the long run!). My daughter has commented on the ease and speed of getting ready for school in the morning — there is nothing to think about!

From the parent perspective, I noticed a shift in the role as a parent after middle school. Peer friendships became more important and more influential in my daughter’s life. Teenagers listen and learn from their peer groups in high school more than in middle school. It is critical to have like-minded faithful peer groups in high school, so their friends are focused on similar values. These students are progressing on their faith journeys together.

SJA is the right choice for a full high school experience. SJA is unique in that it builds a well-rounded high school student who is focused on others, fosters relationships in the community, spends time in their faith, thinks about their own health and wellness, and is surrounded by teachers and staff who care about the whole student. SJA provides students with a stellar education, a strong sense of community, and a meaningful faithful and moral foundation to prepare them for college.

By Kathy Rasmussen
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