— Call it a bless­ing from the high­er-ups at the arch­diocese and from donors: St. Hubert High School is stay­ing alive.

Stu­dents at St. Hubert’s re­act to the news that their school will re­main open on Fri­day, Feb. 24.


St. Hubert High School is stay­ing open, and the girls couldn’t be hap­pi­er.

“Noth­ing will ever beat this feel­ing,” said sopho­more Ash­ley Walsh. “I feel so re­lieved. It feels like the Phil­lies just won the World Series. Now, we’re all not go­ing to get sep­ar­ated. It would have been hard to gradu­ate without my friends.”

When the Arch­diocese of Phil­adelphia blue rib­bon com­mis­sion re­com­men­ded on Jan. 6 that St. Hubert High School close be­cause of de­clin­ing en­roll­ment and a budget de­fi­cit, there were tears and an­ger. It seemed like St. Hubert was in its 71st and fi­nal year.

In the six weeks that fol­lowed, there was a massive fund-rais­ing ef­fort. The school ap­pealed the re­com­mend­a­tion and braced for the ex­pec­ted Feb. 17 do-or-die an­nounce­ment.

However, the arch­diocese delayed the an­nounce­ment for a week, ex­plain­ing that Arch­bish­op Charles J. Chaput needed more time after some po­ten­tial donors stepped for­ward to save St. Hubert, West Cath­ol­ic, Con­well-Egan and Monsignor Bon­ner/Arch­bish­op Pren­der­gast.

Chaput did grant 18 of 24 ap­peals at the ele­ment­ary school level, giv­ing even more hope to the high schools. And the $1.3 mil­lion-plus raised by St. Hubert didn’t hurt.

• • •

The St. Hubert stu­dents gathered in the aud­it­or­i­um last Fri­day to watch a 3 p.m. news con­fer­ence at which Chaput would make his fi­nal de­cision.

By then, the girls were pretty sure the school would be stay­ing open. They saw the head­line, “Four Cath­ol­ic High Schools to Stay Open,” on the Fox 29 Web site that was on the over­head screen, and an an­chor­wo­man an­nounced the good news on the air be­fore Chaput spoke.

Still, the girls sung the school song and held hands as the St. Hubert pres­id­ent, Sis­ter Mary E. Smith, led every­one in the Hail Mary and a fi­nal plea of, “St. Hubert, pray for us.”

The Bam­bie mas­cot did the pray­er­ful Tim Te­bow pose be­fore Chaput stepped to the mi­cro­phone.

The arch­bish­op didn’t beat around the bush, ex­plain­ing that Cath­ol­ic schools of­fer a great edu­ca­tion but face fin­an­cial chal­lenges. As soon as he men­tioned all four schools were stay­ing open — in­clud­ing West Cath­ol­ic, which didn’t even both­er to ap­peal — there was pan­de­moni­um in the aud­it­or­i­um.

“It’s in­cred­ible,” said ju­ni­or Ju­li­anne John­son. “We were on that ori­gin­al list. Our fu­ture was in limbo. But we got what we worked for. Now I get to wear my brown and gold at gradu­ation.”

Every­body poured out of the aud­it­or­i­um onto the front steps and side­walk of the school. State Rep. Tony Payton was among the cel­eb­rants. Mo­tor­ists rid­ing by honked their horns in sup­port. Some par­ents en­joyed a cham­pagne cel­eb­ra­tion across the street in Russo Park.

ldquo;We’re stay­ing Cha-put,” ex­claimed sopho­more Mor­gan Calt­a­bi­ano, us­ing a play on the arch­bish­op’s sur­name.

Nobody listened to the rest of the news con­fer­ence to learn ex­actly why the schools were saved be­cause, at that point, nobody cared.

• • •

The arch­diocese has cre­ated the Faith in the Fu­ture Found­a­tion to im­me­di­ately as­sist all of its 17 high schools and ul­ti­mately its ele­ment­ary schools. The chair­man will be former CIGNA chair­man Ed­ward Han­way, who served on the blue rib­bon com­mis­sion.

The found­a­tion has se­cured $12 mil­lion in cash and pledges, with a goal of $15 mil­lion by May 1, $30 mil­lion by June 2013 and a $70 mil­lion en­dow­ment for all schools by June 2017.

“We’d just like to thank the stu­dents, the alums and all those who made this pos­sible. God bless you,” said Sis­ter Mary Smith.

Prin­cip­al Re­gina Craig cred­ited the stu­dents with help­ing to sway the de­cision.

“The girls learned a valu­able les­son. They learned the power of their voice,” she said.

The girls were joined by the power­ful voices of the alum­nae as­so­ci­ation, ad­vis­ory board and com­munity mem­bers who bought mer­chand­ise, ho­agies, pound cakes and Phil­adelphia Soul tick­ets and at­ten­ded a bingo fund-raiser and be­ne­fits and celebrity bar­tend­ing events at loc­al tav­erns.

“We be­lieve in mir­acles. Thank God,” said Kath­ryn Ott Lov­ell, a 1992 St. Hubert gradu­ate and a mem­ber of the ad­vis­ory board.

The fac­ulty and staff were over­joyed to know that they’d be re­main­ing at the school at Tor­res­dale and Cottman av­en­ues.

• • •

Ath­let­ic dir­ect­or Mike Pren­der­gast was happy that the school with the fourth-highest num­ber of girls in the arch­diocese would stay open.

“Some­body listened,” he said.

Theo­logy teach­er Ed Cox is glad the un­der­class­men will not have to find oth­er schools.

“I’m happy for all the kids,” he said.

The seni­ors were as happy as the un­der­class­men.

“Mr. Cox, we did it,” said seni­or Gina Mont­gomery.

Mont­gomery be­lieves the school is an an­chor of the neigh­bor­hood.

“I’m bey­ond-words ex­cited,” she said. “I’m ex­cited that the ju­ni­ors will get to gradu­ate. It’s an amaz­ing school.”

Sopho­more Alanna Ros­ado bought a hot-off-the-presses T-shirt that read, “St. Hubert’s, We Win. The tra­di­tion con­tin­ues Forever!!!”

“I’m ec­stat­ic,” she said. “On Jan. 6, I was heart­broken, but I knew from the start that we wouldn’t go down without a fight.”

• • •

Mary­anne Rick­us, St. Hubert Class of 1981, is glad that, in two years, she’ll get to walk with her daugh­ter, Jenn, down the aisle at the bac­ca­laur­eate Mass. She had the hon­or of do­ing the same with her old­est daugh­ter Jaclyn, Class of 2006.

Rick­us thanked North­east neigh­bor­hoods for fight­ing for the school.

“The $1.3 mil­lion that was raised came from middle-class, work­ing fam­il­ies,” she said.

Jenn Rick­us did not look at any oth­er high schools dur­ing the sev­en weeks between the two ma­jor an­nounce­ments.

“I didn’t shad­ow. I didn’t want to go any­where else,” she said. “I’m thrilled. All the stress is over.”

Sopho­more Eliza­beth Jones would have gone to Arch­bish­op Ry­an had her school closed, but now she’ll be able to spend her fi­nal two years at St. Hubert. She’s look­ing for­ward to re­main­ing on the Bam­bies’ soc­cer and bas­ket­ball teams. Long­time soc­cer coach Mickey Mc­Groarty joined the cel­eb­ra­tion.

“Fi­nally, I woke up from the night­mare,” said a re­lieved Jones.

Sopho­more Han­nah Weyler said word star­ted to spread dur­ing eighth peri­od that St. Hubert would live.

“I didn’t think we had a chance,” she said of the ori­gin­al an­nounce­ment. “I’m thank­ful for the people who helped us through it.”

For St. Hubert to have a long and pros­per­ous fu­ture, it will be up to girls such as Brenna Stock­lin. The St. Mat­thew eighth-grader walked in­to St. Hubert on Fri­day af­ter­noon to ob­tain an ap­plic­a­tion form for the 2012-13 aca­dem­ic year.

Brenna’s sis­ter Caitlyn is a St. Hubert sopho­more. Her mom, Beth, is a 1986 gradu­ate. Nu­mer­ous oth­er re­l­at­ives are cur­rent stu­dents and alums.

“It’s a home for every­one,” she said. “It will be great to ex­per­i­ence such a great school.” ••


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