October 2018
Jennifer Crusco
Communications Assistant

AHA Opens its Doors to a Flood of Prospective Students

Demarest, NJ:Prospective students and their families flooded the halls and filled the auditorium of the Academy of the Holy Angels at the October Open House. The well-attended showcase brimmed with information and inspiration provided by current students, faculty members, and administrators.

The day began in Sister Genevieve Kelleher Hall with a noon reception and guided tours for legacy families. Alumna Robyn Ziemba (AHA Class of 1996) and members of the AHA Advancement Department greeted alumnae and their daughters, and distributed tote bags filled with AHA gear.

AHA President Melinda Hanlon delivered brief remarks at the reception. In her words of welcome, she noted that Holy Angels is a responsive and dynamic learning environment.

President Hanlon’s comments reflected Kelleher Hall itself. Once a convent that was home to 40 School Sisters of Notre Dame, Kelleher Hall now includes cutting-edge art classrooms, a Mac Lab, chapel, office space, and a future SSND archive.

Throughout the day, Angels provided demonstrations that included opportunities to make “slime” and “mystic sand” in the chemistry lab. Several students worked on frog dissections and paused to answer questions. In the STREAM Lab (STEM plus religion and art), students discussed their robotics and engineering projects.

Outside the building, visitors were able to watch members of the tennis and soccer teams practice their athletic skills. Those who stopped by the school’s student-built, solar-powered greenhouse learned about AHA’s work growing fresh produce for local food banks.

President Hanlon officially greeted the sizeable crowd that assembled for the formal presentation, and led the opening prayer.

Principal Jean Miller followed with an overview of AHA’s academic, co-curricular, and extracurricular programs. Miller, who is an AHA alumna, described the Academy’s many offerings, which range from outreach ministries around the globe to a cooperative educational program with Englewood Hospital, and a tailor-made study abroad program at Oxford University.

She highlighted AHA’s successful sports teams, and the Academy’s reputation for excellent sportsmanship evidenced by 28 years of disqualification-free competition. In addition, Miller noted the award-winning theater program, the three-time national champion AHA Dance Team, and the success of the school’s musicians and vocalists, one of whom has sung twice at Carnegie Hall with an international chorus.

During the last Scholastic Art & Writing event, Miller reported, AHA received more key awards in art than any other school in Bergen County. Gold Key and Silver Key awards “unlock” contestants’ ability to continue from the regional to the national level.

This spring, three Angels medaled in the national competition, bringing home one silver and two gold awards.

Miller explained that AHA’s foundresses, the School Sisters of Notre Dame, have non-governmental organization status within the United Nations. As a result, students are regularly invited to observe UN-sponsored events, including the Commission on the Status of Women. This month, an AHA student’s original poem was presented at the UN’s celebration of the International Day of the Girl.

Miller said Angels find their voice, develop a solid work ethic, and become poised and dependable leaders guided by a strong moral and ethical compass.

“AHA is the strongest choice,” she added.

Sophomore Sarah Onderdonk and alumna Annie Loftus also spoke about their positive experiences at Holy Angels.
Onderdonk is an Angel Ambassador who is involved in debate, forensics, lacrosse, and the Middle States Planning Team. She said making friends at AHA was easy.

Loftus noted that her AHA experience taught her valuable time management skills, and her teachers prepared her to tackle college-level assignments.

Both Loftus and Onderdonk identified AHA English Department Chairperson Nancy Schneberger as a key mentor who prepares students to think critically, express themselves effectively, and contribute fresh ideas when analyzing literature.

The varsity and junior varsity dancers, and several vocalists and instrumental musicians performed at various times during the day.

As the afternoon drew to a close, one father who was visiting AHA with his wife and daughter revealed that the Open House was actually his daughter’s third visit to Holy Angels. She is now preparing to take the entrance exam.

“We are very interested,” he added with a smile. 

Founded by the School Sisters of Notre Dame in 1879, the Academy of the Holy Angels is the oldest private girls’ school in Bergen County. While AHA is steeped in Catholic tradition, this prestigious high school serves young women from a broad spectrum of cultural and religious backgrounds. Over time, thousands of women have passed through AHA’s portals. Many go on to study at some of the nation’s best universities, earning high-ranking positions in medicine, government, law, education, public service, business, arts, and athletics. The Academy’s current leaders continue to further the SSND mission to provide each student with the tools she needs to reach the fullness of her potential—spiritually, intellectually, socially, and physically, by offering a first-rate education in a nurturing environment where equal importance is placed on academic excellence, character development, moral integrity, and service to others.


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