MENDON — As Jamella James and her four siblings moved from foster home to foster home, the Nazareth Schools became her home, the Rochester resident recalled.
A generous donor paid tuition for James and her siblings to stay in the Nazareth Schools.
"It was a blessing to be able to go there," said James, a 1998 Nazareth Hall graduate and a 2002 Nazareth Academy graduate. "I don’t know what I would have done without it. Trying to raise money so other kids can have that same opportunity is key."
That’s why James was among the dozens of Nazareth Schools alumni and faculty participating in a new event: the Remember the Lasers 5K, held June 26 at Mendon Ponds Park. Proceeds from this year’s race will go toward starting the Nazareth Alumni Foundation, which aims to remember the athletic accomplishments of Nazareth Academy, to preserve the Nazareth spirit and preserve Catholic education. The volunteer-run foundation will give out scholarships to Catholic-school students in the Rochester area.
"We have a good core group of people that want to see these types of events succeed, and I think the future of this can be really positive," said organizer Jonathan Griffiths, a 1998 graduate of Nazareth Hall. He attended Irondequoit’s Bishop Kearney for High School and graduated in 2002 and also attended the former St. Helen School in Gates.
Griffiths said he hoped the first scholarships could be awarded in time for the 2011-12 school year.
The race was prompted by a partnership of the Nazareth Schools and Aquinas Institute, which effectively ended the all-female educational legacy of the ninth-through-12th-grade Nazareth Academy. Griffiths noted that the partnership also means transition for some Nazareth Hall students, who will be moved to Aquinas Institute upon reaching seventh grade.
Griffiths, whose two sisters graduated from Nazareth Academy, said he hopes that the event can help rebuild some of the unity among Nazareth alumni and help stabilize Catholic education in the Rochester area.
"The response has been really good for the first year," Griffiths said.
Carol Gillis, a math teacher at Nazareth Academy for 34 years who has taken a part-time position at Brighton’s Our Lady of Mercy High School, was among the former Nazareth Academy faculty who participated in the race. Gillis said she believes the race is a great effort that can help to bind together faculty and alumni of Nazareth Academy and Nazareth Hall.
"I think we should do anything we can do to keep a connection between those of us who spent a good part of our lives there," Gillis said.