Separate But Equal

June 19, 2003
Separate But Equal
By Blessed Sacrament staff/ SUN contributing writers
Holy Cross Academy offers high quality education for area students Oneida–– With a senior class consisting of a mere three students, Holy Cross Academy in Oneida is what some would call a small school. However, to the faculty and students at Holy Cross, it is not the number of bodies that fill the desks, but the quality of education and the faith-rooted environment that makes their school a wonderful place for students to learn and grow.

Holy Cross was established in 1995 when parents recognized that there was a need in the community for a school built on Catholic faith, said principal Margaret Miller. Since then, the school has experienced major growth, doubling in size with each school year. The 2002-03 school year Holy Cross reached its highest enrollment to date with 43 students in grades 7 through twelve from six school districts. There is also a preschool.

Although the school is loyal to the Magisterium and operates with the Bishops’ blessing, Holy Cross remains independent from the diocese. “The diocese knows that we are here and is welcome to come visit,” said Miller. “There is a board of Catholic laity that oversees operations and priests who come in for Confession and celebrate Mass with the students.”

In 2001, Holy Cross, previously located on the grounds of St. Joseph Church in Oneida, settled into its new home on top of a breathtaking 15-acre piece of property in Oneida Castle. According to Miller, she couldn’t have asked for a better place for the new building, a former Methodist Church. “This is really the perfect location for a school,” Miller said. “It is ideal for study, prayer and reflection.” The community and parents were grateful, helping to decorate and furnish the new building with donated items, Miller said. Inside the school is a beautiful chapel, with an organ and a statue of St. Joseph. Students come to the chapel frequently throughout the school year for special services and to celebrate Holy Days. The chapel also remains open during the day for students to visit and simply have quiet time for reflection, said Miller.

A visitor to Holy Cross would see that it looks very much like a family. The students are accepting of one another and students from all six grades are friends with one another. “The main thing that everyone comments on at Holy Cross is the family-like atmosphere,” said Miller. “Many of the students here have brothers or sisters who went through the school. It is a warm and caring environment.” Heather Ackerman, a senior, transferred to Holy Cross her senior year. According to Heather, she didn’t experience the awkwardness of being the new student; her peers were welcoming and eager to know her.

“The students at Holy Cross are so friendly. It isn’t like any other school that I’ve been to. Everyone wants to get to know you,” stated Heather. Miller believes that it is not only the students, but the teachers at Holy Cross that make it such a wonderful school. There are teachers from different backgrounds who all share the same goal of helping students reach their maximum potential. Some teachers are retired and teach classes part-time, some have new families themselves and some are continuing a long career in teaching. This blend of teachers makes Holy Cross unique, said Miller. “We are fortunate at Holy Cross to have teachers who are good Catholics and want to see their students succeed,” said Miller.

Kateri Tiller, a senior at Holy Cross, agrees with her principal that the teachers at Holy Cross are exceptional. “The teachers at Holy Cross really want students to be well prepared academically. They work one-on-one with you and give you attention in class so you succeed,” explained Kateri. “I think that I am leaving here with a great education.” Holy Cross advocates the formation of the whole student, noted Miller. In addition to core religion classes, students have the opportunity to put their faith into action. For example, students recently attended a prayer pilgrimage to Planned Parenthood in Utica.

Students have also expressed individual interests by forming clubs and organizations, such as drama a club and a basketball and soccer team. The teachers also formed a youth group this year for grades nine through 12. The youth group is a means for students to get involved in school and community and share their faith, said Miller. Though a small school, there is certainly much to be proud of at Holy Cross Academy. With another school year coming to a close, the faculty and returning students at look forward to another year of learning, faith and fun. “We expect over 50 students next year,” said Miller. “I think people recognize Holy Cross’ commitment to academic success as well as moral and spiritual development.”

For more information on Holy Cross Academy, call (315) 363-1669 or visit www.holycrossacademy.com

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