ROCHESTER — For the more than 100 Holy Family School students playing kickball, relay games and Frisbee at the Campbell Street Community Center June 11, it was just like every annual end-of-the-year field day.
"We’re celebrating our time together and all that we’ve enjoyed over the year," noted Principal Mary Ellen Wagner.
Smiles abounded as the students relished being outside in the sunshine and playing with friends. Yet it was a bittersweet celebration, parents and students in attendance noted, as the event also marked the final field day for Holy Family. The school, now more than 140 years old, will close at month’s end, along with 12 other diocesan-operated Catholic schools in Monroe County.
"It’s been difficult," said Andrea Turney of Rochester, whose two children marked the third generation of her family to attend Holy Family. "You had to find schools to go to. It’s been rough."
Her son, Alonzo, 12, will attend seventh grade at Aquinas Institute, while her daughter, Miranda, 8, will attend Cathedral School at Holy Rosary.
Turney said she commends Holy Family’s staff for the way they have helped the children cope with the emotions that come with change.
"They tell the kids to think positive and that change is always good," she added.
Eleven-year-old Yohairo Montero proudly wore one of the shirts his mother, Margarita, had made for the students in his sixth-grade graduating class — displaying their photos — as he remarked that the class did feel sad.
Before he ran off to play on the playground, Yohairo said he will remember most "all the teachers and the fun."
His mother said the school will always hold a special place in her heart because it helped turn around her older son’s attitude about school and helped mold him into a better student. Mikhail, 16, who is finishing his sophomore year at Aquinas Institute, which Yohairo also will attend next year, previously had attended a city school.
"The teaching here, the way teachers care and try to help them (students) out, it’s like a family," said Montero, whose family attends St. Michael Church on North Clinton Avenue. "They just want the best for them."
She said she only wishes more parents would have taken advantage of the opportunity to send their children to Holy Family, which was one of the six Wegman-family-supported WIN schools in Rochester’s inner city. Holy Family, with students in preschool to sixth grade, had a total enrollment of 150, Wagner said.
"The financial help (WIN schools) give, it’s amazing," Montero added. "No one (was) turned down."
Students who had received financial assistance and move on to other diocesan-run schools next year will continue receiving the aid, Wagner explained, noting that about 50 percent of the students have enrolled in Catholic schools.
Wagner said she is proud of the legacy left by Holy Family and the other WIN schools, noting they have improved the lives of many city children.
"With the smaller environment, the Catholic identity and the Christian environment, I think our kids just thrived in our environment," she said.