Walk into the halls of Mount St. Mary Academy on Delaware Avenue in Kenmore and you’re likely to see what you would expect to see in any typical Catholic all-girls high school: Teenage girls dressed in plaid skirts, polo shirts and knee highs. But there’s something different about Mount St. Mary Academy this school year. The school has opened its doors to the students of Holy Angels Academy, which closed in June after 152 years.
“We were really upset and devastated,” said former Holy Angels student Paige Cohen, who is now a sophomore at Mount St. Mary. “We just didn’t know what we were going to do or where we were going to go and we were just mad, but then we realized that it was more than us just being mad. It was where we were going to graduate from and the basis of our futures that was compromised when Holy Angels closed.”
“I was really shocked. It came out of nowhere, and they didn’t even warn us or say anything was happening about the school,” said sophomore Molly Frauenheim.
From the time that the devastating news broke, the faculty and students of Mount St. Mary Academy did whatever they could to reach out to the former Holy Angels students.
“I asked all the girls here to put themselves in the position of the girls over at Holy Angels,” said Mount St. Mary Academy Principal Dawn Riggie, “and to react with compassion and kindness to young women who were in a terrible place. They really needed support. They needed people to turn to, and I asked the girls here to be that person.”
Now that the new school year is in full swing, the faculty and students at Mount St. Mary are still dedicated to helping the students from Holy Angels adjust to their new school.
Before Holy Angels announced that it would be closing, Riggie scheduled Bishop Richard J. Malone to be the celebrant for the school’s opening liturgy. So she decided to make the day extra special by hosting a carnival for all the students on the same day.
“We decided that with a large influx of students we needed to do some things that would bring us together as a school community right off the bat,” Riggie said. “We thought it would be great to combine them and have one great kind of day when we prayed together, we ate together and we played together.”
That welcoming attitude has paid off. Many of the transfer students said that they chose to come to Mount St. Mary because of its welcoming environment.
“I liked the people here,” Molly said. “They were very nice and welcoming. They all talked to me when I shadowed. Everyone accepted us and treated us like we’ve been here all along.”
The addition of the former Holy Angels students to Mount St. Mary Academy has increased the school’s population to about 350 students, which allowed the school to add more extracurricular activities for the students, such as the crew team.
Holy Angels girls that had been on its crew team felt a sense of comfort when Mount St. Mary’s added a crew team.
“Coming over from Holy Angels, varsity was only Holy Angels girls, so it was kind of like a comfort thing at first,” said crew team member Lia Mistretta, who is a senior. “But because it welcomed Mount girls, it was kind of like a way to meet people. I feel like its part of Mount that’s specifically ours.”
Mount St. Mary Academy also opened up its student council to the transfer students, holding transfer student representative elections at the beginning of the school year.
“I’m homeroom representative now, so everybody gave me a fair shot,” Paige said. “Nobody really knew me in my homeroom, but everyone voted for me which was really welcoming and it made me feel a lot better about being here.”
Alexandra Fairbanks, a former Holy Angels student who is a junior, always loved musical theater but never had the opportunity to perform in a school production, since Holy Angels never put on a musical. So she was excited when she got to audition for the fall musical, “Kiss Me Kate,” at Mount St. Mary.
But she never expected to be chosen for the lead role.
“I was so surprised to find out that I got the lead,” Alexandra said. “Being in the musical has definitely helped me make new friends and meet new people.”
Although it hasn’t been an easy transition for the former Holy Angels students, they are adjusting to life at a new school.
“By senior year I’ll probably call myself a Mountie because I’ll have spent three years here,” Molly said. “I think I’ll be able to call this school my home.”
Natalie Brophy is a senior at Mount St. Mary Academy.