Thirteen years after graduating, happy memories of Spencerport’s St. John the Evangelist School remain fresh in the mind of Stefanie Aiello: book-reading sessions by the school librarian during her early years; going outside on nice-weather days to play kickball or hold classes; collecting “silly cents” for doing good deeds or completing homework that could be turned in for prizes; putting together a Tom Sawyer musical production in seventh grade; and sharing close friendships on an eighth-grade field trip to Cape Cod.
In fact, the positive experiences in kindergarten through eighth grade were so profound that Aiello, now 27, said they’ve been vital in shaping her path to a successful young adulthood.
“Not many people can say they can remember all their elementary and middle school teachers’ names and faces. Having adults in your life that care and encourage you throughout your childhood allows you to grow with confidence, and to become the most you can be,” said Aiello, a 1995 St. John the Evangelist graduate.
Jillian Borkowski, 21, likewise can vouch for the link between St. John the Evangelist and maximizing one’s potential. Born with spina bifida, she attended the school for nine years before graduating in 2001. Borkowski said school administration and faculty enabled her to receive such on-site services as physical, occupational and speech therapy, and also blended her into inclusive classes and other mainstream activities.
“I truly believe that if I did not have the support team of teachers that I had, I would not be the person that I am today,”she stated. “They believed in me when things got tough and I didn’t quite believe in myself. St John’s opened up the doors for me to be able to be accepted and attend Nazareth Academy for high school.”
The school’s history extends back to 1927 when Father George Predmore, pastor of St. John the Evangelist Parish, opened a parish school with the assistance of the Sisters of St. Joseph. In the mid-1950s, under the pastorate of Father Francis E. Hester and based on substantial growth in the parish, an effort was launched to build a new school. The current building opened in 1957.
However, 51 years after that opening, St. John the Evangelist is one 13 diocesan-operated schools in Monroe County that ceased operation at the end of this school year. Both Aiello and Borkowski noted that the news of their childhood school’s closing has left them with both sadness and gladness.
“I am very saddened at the fact that St John’s is closing. It was such a special part of my life, but I am very blessed and I thank God that I had the opportunity to attend St John’s,” Borkowski said.
“Had I been given the opportunity, my children would also have attended St. John’s. The community is losing a great place of education that truly cares about its students and their wellness,” Aiello added. Although she’s upset that “my childhood stomping grounds are going to be gone,” she still passes by the school building from time to time and the great memories come flying back.
“I always leave there with a smile,” she remarked.