Cardinal Blesses New UPK Program of Port Chester School

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Cardinal Dolan blessed the new universal pre-k program site of Corpus Christi-Holy Rosary School in Port Chester Jan. 31. The cardinal’s visit to learn more about the academic enterprise for the young scholars took place during National Catholic Schools Week.

“What an honor, what a joy to be with you all,” the cardinal said before blessing the UPK site, as well as children and adults inside the gym of the remodeled building, located a few blocks from the school’s main campus. “We’ve got parents here, we’ve got volunteers; we’ve got wonderful teachers. I was so happy to meet you all, and I look forward to touring this beautiful facility, this Blessed Laura (Vicuña) campus. Thank you for your devotion and your dedication.”

Cardinal Dolan added, “I’m especially happy to be here, folks, on the Feast of St. John Bosco. He was a great teacher.” In addition to educating the mind, St. John Bosco wanted his schools to be “places of the heart,” the cardinal said.

“He wanted his schools to be places of love and welcome, and tenderness, like a family home. And something tells me…you got it here.” He then offered words of blessing for the UPK building and the entire school community.

Blessed Laura Vicuña, a Chilean girl who aspired to become a nun, attended the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians School in Neuquén, Argentina. She died in 1904 at age 12 in Argentina of pulmonary tuberculosis. The Salesian Sisters of Don Bosco, another name of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, started her canonization process in the 1950s; she was beatified in 1988.

Deirdre McDermott, the principal of Corpus Christi-Holy Rosary, said, “We are very excited to have Cardinal Dolan here to bless this building and celebrate the great collaboration between Corpus Christi-Holy Rosary School and the Port Chester public school system.”

She said the building, which had housed Lincoln Public School, was purchased in 1945 and named Holy Rosary School, and operated with help from the Salesian Sisters. Up the hill, in 1959, another school was built, named Corpus Christi and also operated with assistance from the Salesian Sisters.

“In 2008, the two Salesian schools merged under one roof at the Corpus Christi site,” Mrs. McDermott said. “And here we are today, celebrating the reopening of the former Holy Rosary School and welcoming students into our halls.” The 175-student UPK site, which opened in September, is on Central Avenue.

The main campus is on South Regent Street, with 236 students in pre-k 3 through eighth grade. Sister Lise Parent, F.M.A., is the school president.

Words of praise for the educational partnership also came from Michael J. Deegan, archdiocesan superintendent of schools, and Port Chester Mayor Richard Falanka, an alumnus of Holy Rosary, who presented Cardinal Dolan with the key to the village of Port Chester. The children are CCHR students attending a UPK program funded by the Port Chester public school system. “I’m told it takes a village. We have that village here today,” Deegan said.

After the blessing, and children presenting gifts to the cardinal, all sang a popular school song, “Friend of the Young and the Poor.” The cardinal and others then received a tour of the building. The UPK curriculum provides children with the foundational skills in English Language Arts (ELA) and math, along with social skills in a creative play environment to prepare them for a successful year in kindergarten.

Roselia Dos Santos, whose 4-year-old son David is enrolled in the UPK program, spoke with CNY. “This was all very nice, very beautiful,” said Ms. Dos Santos, who added she was thankful for the cardinal’s visit and blessing, and for the UPK program.

David’s teacher is Jennifer McMillan, one of nine UPK teachers. She spoke with CNY inside her classroom. “This program is free and it gives an opportunity to children in this community to start their education at a pre-k level, which is so important for their social skills,” Mrs. McMillan said.

CNY also interviewed Sophia Labrusciano, 4, with a little help from Mrs. McMillan. Sophia, sitting at a low classroom table, said she likes playing with the toy horses in the block area. She said she wants to ride real horses when she is older. “I’m going to have my own horse. Her name will be Gwendy.”

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