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Growing Faith and Knowledge at Saint John Paul II Catholic Academy

By Pamela Sosnowski

Saint John Paul II Catholic Academy (SJPIICA) is the largest accredited Catholic elementary school in the Northeast, with over 1,250 students. The school's mission is not just to teach the academic basics, but to help students develop skills to become responsible adults and have compassion to help others.

SJPIICA is comprised of four Boston-area campuses, located in Columbia, Lower Mills, Mattapan and Neponset. Each location teaches children from preschool age up to grade 8, with a limited number of students per class and a curriculum that encourages reading, writing, and critical thinking. Students are actively engaged in discussions and problem solving. Says Sister Ellen Powers, CSJ, the Academy's Regional Director, "By going to Saint John Paul II Catholic Academy students will grow in faith and knowledge in a safe, nurturing, structured, and culturally diverse environment."

SJPIICA believes in giving each student a well-rounded education beyond the basic course curriculum. The campuses have been renovated and house new science labs, computers, media, music, and art rooms as well as gymnasiums and cafeterias. After school programs are available for students interested in sports and drama.

The school also offers a fine arts curriculum that provides weekly music classes in voice, percussion, violin, music history, and more. Extended day enrichment programs further a student's musical education with 45-minute weekly classes in violin, guitar, keyboard, and art. SJPIICA's talented students have opportunities to perform alongside many noted orchestras and conservatories throughout the Boston area as well as in monthly liturgies and the annual spring and Christmas shows. "Our students perform publicly in several performances in Boston theaters and we have the largest violin strings ensemble in the city of Boston," says Sister Ellen.

SJPIICA teaches the importance of giving back to the local community, and students are involved in numerous volunteer opportunities with food pantries, homeless shelters, and a Christmas gift drive for needy families. Each Memorial Day, the students help plant flags on Boston Common honoring deceased service people. They also regularly visit nursing homes in the area, where students engage with residents and provide musical entertainment for them.

The school's education structure has seen a high success rate once students graduate. According to Sister Ellen "99% of student attendees' graduate from high school and 97% go on to college." Graduates have gone on to attend high schools such as St. Joseph's Prep, Xaverian, Fontbonne Academy, and Boston Latin Academy. But more importantly, says, Sister Ellen "The curriculum helps students to develop the essential skills to become productive, responsible global citizens and positive young adults who possess a love of God, of learning and of service to others."

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