Excitement radiated throughout Holy Cross High School on Thursday morning as the Flushing institution officially welcomed girls for the first time in its history.
The group of 200 trailblazing members of the freshmen Class of 2022 had their first day on Sept. 6. Since it first opened its doors in 1955, Holy Cross (26-20 Francis Lewis Blvd.) was an all-boys, college preparatory institution, but the school announced in May 2017 that it would welcome young women for the 2018-19 school year.
The school’s decision to become co-ed came after the board of corporate members’ unanimous decision to accept the board of directors’ recommendation to admit young women to the school.
On their first day, the young men and women of the Class of 2022 experienced a full day of orientation activities, including buying supplies and uniforms, learning to use their school-provided Google Chromebooks and meeting their new teachers. Last week, the students participated in the “Freshman Experience,” a day of games, relationship building and team building.
“Our goal was to make sure that we welcomed the community, our new students, in a manner that the congregation would have liked us to,” said Holy Cross Principal Edward Burns, who graduated from the school in 1983. “We just really focused the day on activities that would allow the students to interact with our staff and their peers.”
“That day I was actually really scared because I didn’t that I was gonna make friends,” said incoming freshman Khaliyah Jennings.
Despite her trepidation, Jennings said that she was able to make friends and ultimately enjoyed the activities including a giant game of Jenga and various ice-breakers like Two Truths and a Lie.
Another new student, Armani Montaque said that he enjoyed the day getting to meet and get to know his fellow classmates.
“We did a basketball shootout and ran a race,” Montaque said.
The school, in addition to 22 secondary and post-secondary academic institutions across the country, is sponsored by the Congregation of Holy Cross in the United States. Currently, 18 of the 22 institutions are co-educational.
According to James Conboy, the school’s vice president of institutional advancement, Holy Cross wanted to spread the mission of the Congregation’s founder, Blessed Basil Moreau, to provide young people with a solid Catholic education regardless of gender.
“In order to expand the mission of what he put out there, we felt that going to co-ed would be beneficial to not only young men,” Conboy said. “To give young men and women a Holy Cross education would be very rewarding for our congregation.”
Conboy added that financially, the move to coeducation was the right decision for Holy Cross. Due to the number of parochial schools combining, Conboy said that their “feeder pool” of schools from which their students came has been declining.
The impact of earning a Holy Cross education stayed with alumnus Paul Viollis, Class of 1979, who said that allowing girls to attend the school was “long overdue.”
“I think it’s a reflection of the diversity of the vision that Holy Cross has always had and continues to have, in looking at, not just what’s best for the school, but what’s best for the community,” said Viollis, the current counter-terrorist analyst for CBS. “Even back when I went, Holy Cross was about inclusion in the ’70s when people didn’t talk about inclusion.”
The new students expressed the same excitement for being part of the Class of 2022.
“I thought that it would be a better experience than other schools to be the first girls,” said new student Kimberly Johnston.
“They had a lot of new things for the girls and especially because we’re gonna make history by graduating as the first co-ed class,” added Jennings.
For Charles Antell, the prospect of adding young women to the student body strengthened Holy Cross’ feeling of community.
“It was a good feeling knowing that there was gonna be more people, meeting new people, people from everywhere,” shared freshman Miguel Pineda.
Robert Botero, an alumnus from the Class of 2000 and the school’s director of admissions said that it was “amazing” that girls were now getting the same opportunity to receive the same education that he and so many others were afforded.
“As a parent of two girls, that’s exciting for me because now I know that my children would have an opportunity to be a part of something special also. To say ‘everyone’s excited’ is an understatement,” he said.
On Monday, Sept. 10, the entire Holy Cross student body will come together for their first official day of classes.