|Michael Keelan (left) and Father David Simonetti are set to open a unique high school in Chicago.|
A priest in Chicago is establishing a college prep high school that some are calling unprecedented.
Father David J. Simonetti has financed the Pope Benedict XVI Academy of Excellence, which he plans to open in suburban Chicago in the fall, with his own money. While it is not affiliated with the Archdiocese of Chicago, it needs archdiocesan approval to rent six classrooms at St. Paul Catholic Church in Chicago Heights, Ill. Tuition and private donations are going to fund the school after its opening.
So far, 10 students are enrolled and 35 are in the application process. The school will start with only a freshman class in the first year and continue to add new classes each year thereafter. Michael Keelan, who has been in education for 12 years, will be the school president.
The students will study traditional subjects such as language arts and mathematics, with a modern twist. Some of the coursework will incorporate Illinois Virtual School, a supplementary online teaching tool, and the classrooms will be wired with smart boards, according to Keelan.
Simonetti added that students will study art, music, philosophy, and theology, and the school will "incorporate teaching the faith across the curriculum.”
"They will be doing community service where they're at," Simonetti said. "What kids do matters. Their lives matter. They have something to contribute to society, and they have something to receive from society. I want to help them grow in charity. I want them to understand that their lives matter, but it only matters when one gives one's life away.”
Chicago Heights already has a Catholic high school, but the new academy’s tuition of about $5,900 would be about half of what other Catholic schools charge, and class sizes would be smaller.
Graziano Marcheschi, Saint Xavier University's vice president of university ministry, said there are other non-archdiocesan Catholic high schools in the Chicago area, but they are usually funded by established religious orders. He noted that the smaller, more affordable option that this new school would provide would likely appeal to many people.
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