BOALSBURG - Now iIn it's third year, Saint Joseph's Catholic Academy in Boalsburg continues to grow.
The faith-based school, situated just off the Boalsburg Pike in Centre County, opened its doors for the first time in August 2011. Since then, enrollment has increased, administration has changed hands and facilities have expanded.
New to the school this year is Principal F. Christopher Chirieleison, who was most recently employed as headmaster of an Episcopal boarding school in North Carolina. Chirieleison said he wanted to become involved in Catholic education when the opportunity became available to lead the development of SJCA.
Sentinel photo by BUFFIE?BOYER
Chemistry students take notes in the new lab classroom at St. Joseph’s Catholic Academy in Boalsburg.
Chirieleison, who is originally from Pennsylvania, said he looked forward to the opportunity to become part of something as new and unique as the academy.
In his new role, Chirieleison said he plans to continue adding curricular and extracurricular activities.
"The core values of St. Joseph's (faith, scholarship, leadership and Christian service) ... that pretty much says it all," he said about his goals for the academy.
Earlier this fall, the school added a new state-of-the-art science wing, funded through a donation by Scientific Systems Inc. and Andrew Charney. Students have the option of studying biology, chemistry, physiology, environmental science, pre-engineering, anatomy and more.
Science teacher Christian Klepeiss said all the cabinetry in the rooms is new. Lab stations sit along the perimeter of the classroom, wrapping around an open area filled with student desks.
As far as equipment goes, Klepeiss said, "We have everything you can imagine. Last year, we didn't have any of this."
"We really thought about the design (of the science wing) and put in things that would be functional for the class," he said.
While he gave a tour of the room, students worked meticulously from their textbooks. But Klepeiss said there also is plenty of time for less paper and pencil and more interactive learning.
One project on the agenda for this year is a lesson featuring Rube Goldberg contraptions - large, complex machines designed to perform simple tasks. Another is the chance to launch projectiles while predicting where and when they will land. Klepeiss said a third project allows students to design model homes.
Also new this year is the first senior class of Saint Joseph's Catholic Academy. Last year, the school welcomed about 70 students in grades nine through 11. With the addition of a senior class, enrollment has grown to more than 100 students.
"We provide a faith-based high school option for students who are interested in having a robust high school experience," Chirieleison said.
That option includes a breadth of curricular opportunities, including college preparatory classes, as well as extracurricular clubs, PIAA sports and student council.
This year, the school organized its first football team of 18 student athletes. Chirieleison said the team plays on a new football field located right behind the academy.
"It's been good for school spirit," he said, adding that students and faculty alike have enjoyed attending games.
The team had a 2-4 record through its first six games.
Chirieleison said the school is now gathering interest for winter sports, including boys and girls basketball, indoor track, swimming and, new this year, wrestling.
Between its commitment to academic excellence, dedication to Christian service and inclusion of extracurricular activities, SJCA parent Julie Youngmark, of State College, said "it's just nice to have an option in State College."
Youngmark said she received her own education in a smaller school, so the family atmosphere present at SJCA has always been important to her.
"From a parent's perspective, it's nice to have an option (in education)," she said. "There's people who just don't fit into a big school."
Youngmark said the school also places an emphasis on career training and encourages students to shadow careers they're interested in - an opportunity she called "unique" to SJCA.
"I'd encourage people to inquire if they're interested in a faith-based college-preparatory high school that can offer an experience much different than other schools in this region can provide," Chirieleison said.
For more information about Saint Joseph's Catholic Academy, visit its website at www.stjoeacad.org or call the school office at (814) 808-6118.