Courtesy of St. Andrew Avellino Catholic Academy
The Ambassadors Award for the Fine Arts is proudly displayed at St. Andrew Avellino Catholic Academy in Flushing. Presented by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn, the award includes a $100,000 grant to be shared by the Music and Arts programs. (From l. to r.) Music Director Ms. Kimberly Larkin, Academy Principal Mrs. Debora Hanna and Art Teacher Mrs. Susan deLeon.

St. Andrew Avellino Academy in Flushing received a prestigious award with a $100,000 grant for its music and arts program that originated as an idea by a committee of school parents and parishioners more than 20 years ago. 

The only academy  to receive the Ambassadors Award for the Fine Arts by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn, St. Andrew Avellino’s music program benefited from a collaboration with the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College. It was quickly integrated into the educational curriculum for kindergarten through fifth grade. 

The board of directors of St. Andrew Avellino were very appreciative of receiving the Ambassadors Award. 

“As chairperson of the board of directors, I’m extremely proud of our school and the dedicated staff. For the past 20 years the music and art programs have introduced our students to a more well-rounded education,” said Lorenz Arfsten. “In the future with the grants received, our students will continue to benefit from an education that includes and encourages participation in music and art.”

Under the direction of Susan DeLeon, the arts program has been an enormous success with parents and students alike when the refurbished art room was opened 25 years ago. Since then, DeLeon has enhanced the program by creating an after-school art club for grades five through eight that meets throughout the year, in addition to a successful evening adult program. 

St. Avellino’s all-inclusive after-school programs include junior and senior chorus, band ensemble, percussion, strings and piano lessons. Each year, the students perform in two academy concerts. 

Academy students have entered numerous art contests held at St. Francis Preparatory School in Fresh Meadows and McGoldrick Library in Flushing. As current contest winners, fifth-grade students will display their artwork in the library for next year. The annual Art Fair Exhibition is one of the most highly anticipated events at the academy enjoyed by students and the entire parish community. 

Kimberly Larkin, the school chorus director and curriculum adviser and music program coordinator, wanted the students to always make music and be hands-on with the instruments. 

In 1999, Larkin was asked by a current board member of the Academy, Donald Pirone, to collaborate on starting a brand-new music program at the school saying it was truly an opportunity of a lifetime for her. 

“I had attended a local Catholic elementary school and during my tenure there I yearned for a more extensive and intensive music program after I discovered my passion for music at a very young age,” said Larkin. “To be able to create and develop a program with such tremendous support from the parents and administration at this school was, and still is, a dream. Receiving this grant is such a blessing and it ensures the continued growth and expansion of an already strong music program for generations of students to come.” 

Today, the academy student chorus performs every year at the Bayside Holiday Parade, Christmas tree and Hanukkah candle lighting, and St. Mary’s Hospital for Children. The students were also selected to perform the Star-Spangled Banner at CitiField in May 2017. 

“The music and art programs are an integral part of the excellent and well-rounded curriculum at Saint Andrew Avellino Catholic Academy,” said Pirone. “Our seasonal concerts and annual art festival are an inspiration to all. We are grateful for our dedicated faculty, and applaud the achievements of our talented students.”

The academy plans to use grant funds to redesign the art classroom with new tables for better student workflow, in addition to adding an interactive flat board and new innovative art supplies.  

“I am thankful to be the administrator of an Academy that has a superb art and music program,” said Principal Debora Hanna. “The grant will help us to continue to enhance our program in order to help our students flourish in the fine arts.”

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