By Gus Ostrum
Special to the NEWS
Yes, Gloucester Catholic’s Junior High School has fast become a staple in the local community.
Under the guidance of Principal John Colman and Lead Teacher Mary Kelly, the first-year Junior High offers students a broad educational experience that includes a demanding curriculum complemented by a full offering of Activities and Athletics.
Add into the mix a dedicated faculty and administration, and the opening of GC Junior High has proven a major benefit to local Camden County and Gloucester County students.
“When Saint Mary’s closed we saw this as a great opportunity to help the local students and families and as a natural extension of Gloucester Catholic High School itself,” Colman said. “This transition has proven to be very smooth thanks to a dedicated staff.”
The Junior High currently enrolls 55 total students, including two classes of seventh graders and one eighth grade class.
Many enrolled in the school directly from Saint Mary’s after the iconic institution closed in Spring 2011. However, students have also enrolled in GC Junior High from all over Camden and Gloucester counties.
Mrs. Kelly said the first-year faculty team has been at the forefront of making the school a success.
She had been a 25-year staff member at Saint Mary’s, teaching math and religion and serving as an assistant principal for 12 years. She helped to ease the transition next door to Gloucester Catholic.
“I personally knew many of the students making the transition, and it was comforting for them to see a familiar face here at Gloucester Catholic,” Kelly said. “These kids have also enjoyed the staff we have here, and they’ve really thrived in the classroom.”
The talented and hard-working staff members are Mrs. Winifred Wolenter (math and science), Mr. Robert Langi (literature and language arts), Ms. Krista Glassman (religion and social studies), and Mrs. Kelly (honors math).
Also serving on the staff are Mr. Dave Sipple (art), Mr. Tom Iacovone (physical education) and Mrs. Christine McKenna (computers).
In addition, Mr. Ed Beckett (religion), Rev. Chuck Colozzi (religion) and Mr. Tom Reed (curriculum) have played key roles in a successful first year for the school.
The Junior High has supplemental support services for students with learning differences as well as compensatory education instruction available for students who qualify.
Guidance support, provided by Mrs. Cara Buckland and Mr. George Bakey, is offered and continued later throughout the students’ enrollment at Gloucester Catholic High School.
Students also have access to services offered by Student Assistance Counselor Caroline Dougherty.
“Our faculty members have invested so much time and effort into making our Junior High a success, and it’s apparent every day we come to work,” Mrs. Kelly said. “Gloucester Catholic Junior High School has just been a great success story all the way around.”
The school offers students a comprehensive academic curriculum within the ideal of Christian education, “To make people’s faith become living, conscious, and active through the light of instruction.” The curriculum offers the following academic programs:
Religion, Language Arts, Literature, Math 7, Advanced Math 7 (Pre-Algebra), Math 8, Advanced Math 8 (Algebra 1), Science (Labs), Social Studies and Specials (PE/-Computers/Art).
One key component in the curriculum has been the involvement of Father Chuck Colozzi in weekly religion classes with his students.
“It’s been a real advantage to have a priest teaching these young students,” Mrs. Kelly said.
“Father Chuck does great work in the classroom and has organized retreats. He also traveled with the students to Washington, DC, for the annual March for Life, which was organized by the Saint Mary Parish Pro-Life Committee. He has played an important role in helping the kids build strong Christian values,” she said.
Students have thrived in other classroom settings as well, including a regular science lab period taught by Winifred Wolenter.
“The kids love the lab work – it’s been a lot of fun,” Mrs. Kelly said. “They’re able to experience hands-on activities here, and their interest in science has just taken off.”
The faculty also look to further their own education. For example, Ms. Wolenter is completing her doctorate in math at Rutgers University in New Brunswick.
Activities and athletics play a leading role in the development of GC Junior High students. Among the activities open to students are:
Math Competition, Student Council/Student Ambassador Program, Theater/Drama Club, Knights of Columbus Spelling Bee, Young Authors’ Poetry Contest, Service Squad, Ski Trip, History Club, School of Rock, Choir, Sketch Club and Rams for Life.
Students can also participate in Junior High sports programs, including cross country, track and field, basketball, and cheerleading.
The school is currently accepting registrations for the 2012-13 school year, and Principal Colman expects a nice turnout and a successful second year at the school. The registration date is February 25 at GC Junior High.
“We at Gloucester Catholic are very pleased with how the Junior High has operated in its first full year,” Mr. Colman said.
“When Saint Mary’s closed last spring, we had about six weeks to put this together before our September opening, and that includes the hiring of faculty and development of our curriculum. This has been a great success story!” he said.