ROCHESTER — For most of the day Sept. 2, rain and gray skies
threatened to force indoors Nazareth Academy’s welcoming picnic for
However, just as a ninth-grader’s fears and apprehensions often give
way to sunny experiences, the clouds dissipated and a late-afternoon
wiener roast proceeded smoothly on the high school’s south lawn.
The party was a hit, attracting more than 200 people: 55 of the
school’s 90 incoming freshmen and their families, along with faculty
members and Nazareth upperclassmen who served as volunteers. Many of
the guests also ventured indoors for tours of the Nazareth facility.
An especially popular stop was the school bookstore, where a brisk
business was taking place for clothing with Nazareth Academy logos. One
satisfied customer was freshmen Ashley DiVincenzo … well, the actual
customer was Ashley’s mother Janine, who was doling out some serious
bucks at the cash register. Ashley’s haul included a gym uniform, two
shirts, pants and a sweatshirt — a wardrobe she said she planned to
utilize extensively during the first week of school.
“She’s so excited. You’ve got to make sure she has everything,” her
mother explained, adding with a smile, “And I have a hard time saying
According to Lou Zona, principal, the picnic brought back a one-time
popular tradition at Nazareth Academy that had not been done in recent
“We’re really working hard to connect with the freshmen and their
families as soon as possible,” said Zona, in his second year at the
all-girls’ high school. Zona explained that by offering a freshman
picnic and tour just before school began “it’s not a mystery when they
come here tomorrow,” referring to Sept. 3, the first day of classes.
“I think it’s pretty cool,” Ashley said of the festivities.
Bernie Eichas, who emerged from the bookstore with a Nazareth shirt,
was also enjoying the event, saying she had spied some familiar faces.
“It’s good to see my friends before school starts,” remarked Bernie,
13, from St. Jude’s Parish in Gates.
Having friends around will help ease some freshman jitters that
Bernie admitted to harboring. “I’m a little nervous. There’s going to
be more work,” she said. “And there’s a lot of people I don’t know. I
don’t know if I’m going to get to know all their names.”
Ashley, on the other hand, seemed to be taking things in stride —
including the extra distance she will travel from her home in Penfield.
A parishioner of St. Joseph’s in Penfield, she attended St. Joseph’s
School last year.
“It doesn’t really bother me,” Ashley said about the long bus rides.
“I’ll just bring my CD player.”
For freshmen who aren’t feeling quite as positive, Zona said that’s
perfectly natural. He acknowledged that the transition to high school
can be a bit slow, citing an all-female atmosphere that’s new for
virtually everyone; students who are converging from all parts of the
city and its suburbs; and a notably tougher curriculum than in middle
“We’re a college preparatory school. They have to hit the ground
running,” Zona said, adding that these challenges apply even for the 40
percent of freshmen who attended school in the Nazareth Academy
building last year as eighth-graders at Nazareth Hall. (Nazareth Hall,
a grades pre-K through 8 coeducational school, holds grades 6 through 8
at Nazareth Academy.)
Freshman Dorina Agostinelli, who attended Nazareth Hall last year,
said she’s already anticipating a tussle with academics based on
feedback from her sister Christina, 17, a Nazareth Academy senior.
“I’m kind of nervous about all the work. I’m taking a new language,
going from Spanish to Latin,” Dorina, 14, said during the picnic.
Her sister, seated next to her, had some quick advice: “Do your
homework the day it’s assigned — it builds up fast!”