By: Dominique Johnson
Over the past four years Holy Name Catholic School in Ketchikan has seen a sixty percent enrollment increase and Holy Name administrator Nicole Miller believes the change is because, “Families and students feel welcomed, because we are out in the community and when they walk through our doors they realize there is something different about us.”
Holy Name is the only Catholic school in the Diocese of Juneau and their mission statement is, “Be it known to all who enter here that Christ is the reason for this school, the unseen but ever-present teacher in its classes, the model of its faculty, and the inspiration of its students.” In having its mission centered around Christ and his teachings, students have a different experience at Holy Name than a public or other private school.
“We focus on the whole child education aspect and forming students into good citizens and wholesome adults,” Miller said. She added that she often hears from parents whose children have attended other schools that, “We have a family atmosphere,” something that was lacking at previous schools.
Miller attributes that difference in the school to herself and the school’s staff being able to, “Show students the love of Christ,” and give them personalized attention such as knowing every student’s name and, “give them a high five and tell them they’re awesome when we see them in the halls.”
Though the school is Catholic, the education offered is open to all in the Ketchikan community. The school follows the example of the Pope, “We’ve embraced the call of Pope Francis that Catholic education is not just for the elite…and it’s our responsibility to evangelize, to love and meet people where they are at,” Miller explained.
Applying the concept of meeting the students where they are to the classrooms has been effective in creating a better learning environment and Miller said she has seen this especially in students that have made the switch to Holy Name from another school, “When a child knows they are loved, the difference that makes is incredible.”
Having Catechesis of the Good Shepherd (CGS) as part of the school’s curriculum has also helped the students, preschool through sixth grade, grow in their faith. Two years ago, at the Easter Vigil 15 Holy Name students were baptized into the faith. Miller said it is the CGS program in the school that has helped the students develop a relationship with Christ, “They know he is a part of their lives and is there to accompany them on their journey.” Miller added that “No matter what background they have, they know that they have that Good Shepherd watching over them.”
Miller will be starting her third full school year as the administrator of Holy Name School this fall and will be bringing new ideas to the school and staff, having completed her graduate certificate in Catholic School administration through Loyola Marymount in Los Angeles. The program also gave Miller the opportunity to network with other Catholic schools in mission dioceses in the United States and has helped bring the school in Ketchikan a connection to schools in the lower 48.
As the new school year approaches there will be some changes at the school with the offering of a full-time lunch program. The school will also offer students more extracurricular opportunities to learn about robotics and art, thanks to parents volunteering their time to share their expertise with the students.
Miller expressed gratitude to those throughout the diocese who have supported Holy Name School with donations and box top collections. She also invites supporters of the school to stop by when they visit Ketchikan. Miller added, “We need ambassadors, people in the community sharing the mission of Holy Name” and, “Prayers for strength for our staff as we swim against the current.”
The first day of school is August 28th. To learn more about Holy Name School in Ketchikan visit www.holynameschoolketchikan.org.