The St. Basil Academy community celebrated Catholic Schools Week in a variety of ways, with service activities, dress-down day, student appreciation day and treats such as ice cream sundaes and soft pretzels.
“It’s been a very joyous week,” said principal Connie D’Angelo.
D’Angelo is in her third year as principal at the high school, 711 Fox Chase Road, in Jenkintown. She’s the first lay principal at the school, sponsored by the Sisters of St. Basil the Great. The Rev. Joe Campellone, former president at Father Judge, is an advancement consultant, helping raise money to supplement tuition payments.
There are about 250 girls enrolled in the school. The tuition next year will be $15,000, a relatively cheap option for an all-girls academy.
The principal explained that about half of the girls come from areas of eastern Montgomery County such as Abington, Cheltenham and Huntingdon Valley. The other half hail from Philadelphia, predominantly the Northeast. Jewish, non-religious and non-Catholic Christian students take an introduction to theology course.
The school motto is, “Building the Minds of Leaders through Service and Compassion.”
“Most of our girls exceed those hours. They love to give back,” D’Angelo said of service learning requirements.
Other points of pride include a 100-percent college placement rate, individualized counseling with Linda Smith, opportunities to travel overseas and yearly retreats, including a three-day getaway in senior year.
Girls are able to take advanced-placement courses beginning in sophomore year, and are able to take those credits with them to college.
D’Angelo teaches a course in women’s leadership, which is in line with efforts to give the girls an idea of what college and work life are like. Academic core courses are stressed, but so are theater and sports, with girls having the chance to have the lead in a play or be captain of a team.
“We’re preparing them for their next steps,” the principal said. “We create an opportunity for them to succeed.”
The Times spoke with six students: seniors Maria Storck and Zoe Dixon, both of whom attended St. Cecilia; junior Shannon Remolde, also of St. Cecilia; junior Regan Bentley, of St. Matthew; junior Denae Carter, who attended Ziegler Elementary School; and freshman Samantha Quintana, who attended New Foundations Charter School from kindergarten to eighth grade.
Carter, who came from public school, sensed a positive energy at a St. Basil open house that led to her enrolling. She’s a star on the basketball team, which is 20-2.
“It’s very structured. It feels homey, welcoming and comforting,” she said of the school. “It’s a school of spirit. I’ve built friendships that will last really long.”
Quintana, too, came from outside the Catholic school system. She’s enjoyed her first few months at the school as a member of the soccer, cheerleading and lacrosse teams.
“It’s a college prep school with a very high success rate,” she said. “The girls are close. I wanted to meet new people and wanted to try out an all-girls school.”
Remolde, meanwhile, has two older sisters who attended the school.
“They would come home and say good things about Basil’s, that it’s fun while you learn,” she said. “I came in with high expectations. Everyone is loving and welcoming and has become my sister.”
The younger Remolde plays soccer and basketball, has been on student council and is involved with SBA Cares.
“Service here is very important,” she said.
Storck, too, had an older sister attend the school and has a younger sister there now. A cousin was valedictorian in 2015.
“She always raved about how much she loved the school, that it felt like home,” she said.
Storck is on the yearbook committee and will play soccer at Goldey-Beacom (Delaware).
“The past three years have been awesome. Walking down the halls, you know everyone’s name and face. And the teachers help you,” she said.
Dixon is captain of the mock trial team, a member of the student hospitality committee and takes part in the mini-thon, which raises money for pediatric cancer awareness. She said the school has a special spirit, especially at sports games.
“You never see a Basil’s student section empty,” she said.
Bentley, like Remolde, has been on student council and attended a recent sports leadership conference at Mount St. Joseph. She decided to attend St. Basil after a shadow day and is now on the soccer, basketball and softball teams.
“These have been two of the best years of my life so far, and it’s only going to get better,” she said. “I couldn’t ask for better teachers and a better education. I’ll be ready and prepared to move on. I’d recommend this school.”
Bentley and the other girls like that their teachers are also active outside the classroom, such as writing college recommendation letters, assisting with college application essays and moderating extracurricular clubs.
For instance, math teacher Theresa Hartey directs an SAT prep course that usually leads to high test scores.
In the traditional classroom setting, St. Basil teachers, particularly English teacher Christine Meko, challenge the girls to be their best.
“She knows Basil girls can do it,” Dixon said. ••