By Stephen Stirling
Nestled in the heart of College Point at 13-20 124th St., much has changed since the first students made their way through the halls of St. Agnes Catholic High School 100 years ago. But though a century of history may have changed the face of the world around it, the school's mission has changed little: to provide an environment in which young women can grow both academically and socially, and move forward better prepared for the lives ahead of them.”It was always visionary in that sense,” said Sister Joan Martin, the school's principal, “in that it was always considered to be a college preparatory school.””Our mission has always been to show that women can do what they want and we want to prepare them for that,” Sister Martin said. “We have really kept that fire burning.”Started in 1908 by two Dominican Sisters under the leadership of Mother Petra, St. Agnes Catholic High School began with just 12 students. Since then thousands of students have stridden through the halls of the school, which has remained in College Point since it first opened its doors.Though the school was once co-ed, St. Agnes has been an all girls school since 1948, something Sister Sister Martin has strived to embrace.”We create a very feminine atmosphere here,” Sister Sister Martin said. “I want people to know this is a girl's school from the moment they walk through the door.”Sophomore Taiszcha Castro said Sister Martin's efforts have created an environment she can thrive in.”Its a home away from home,” Castro said. “I think the fact that it's an all-girls school is really comforting.”Sister Martin said the school's century of success is a direct result of the dedication of the faculty and administration who run it. The 400-student school boasts a 15:1 student/faculty ratio, which Sister Martin says allows the young women enrolled at the school to get the attention they deserve.”Small size is definitely what sets us apart,” Sister Sister Martin said. “It creates a sense of community at a time when society is losing that sense.”The school enrolls grades nine through twelve and a bulletin board full of college acceptance letters to schools like Marymount University, Rutgers University and Queens College stands as a testament to their seniors' success. While the school boasts highly regarded curriculum, Assistant Principal Susan Nicoletti said St. Agnes also stresses the importance of extra-curricular activities.”We always say we don't want you to be a 2:40 student,” Nicoletti said, referring to the student who leaves at 2:40 p.m., when classes are dismissed. “Colleges are looking for kids that are well-rounded. The SATs alone don't cut it anymore.”Sister Martin said though many of the core values that have made the school a success remain unchanged, St. Agnes graduates are moving into a world that is far more welcoming for the strong, independent women they strive to mold.”The times have changed and St. Agnes has changed along with the times,” she said. “The role of women in the world has changed. Years ago, a woman might be headed for a job where she was getting the boss his coffee, and now these women are being served their coffee.”St. Agnes will kick off its yearlong 100th anniversary celebration on April 19, when it will hold a mass of thanksgiving and dinner at the Immaculate Conception Center in Douglaston. Reach reporter Stephen Stirling by e-mail at Sstirling@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.