DELRAN — Ahead of its 60th anniversary, Holy Cross Academy is in the process of rolling out new initiatives to help students prepare for their future.
As part of the celebration of its "diamond jubilee," the Chester Avenue school is looking to do more than remember its history, according to Principal Dennis Guida.
"I think part of it is to celebrate the past, the present and the future — I think actually that's all of it. Where we are, where we came from and where we're going," Guida said.
The co-educational Catholic high school of over 400 students kicked off the anniversary, which officially starts in February, early with the launch of three initiatives.
Students now can take up to 46 college credits through a partnership with Rowan College at Burlington County and Seton Hall University in South Orange, Essex County.
"That's 46 less credits you have to take in college," Guida said.
About 15 new courses in math, history, science and English will be taught by adjunct professors from both colleges.
For students like senior Teddy Bolte, taking a dual-enrollment course is helping to set him up for the next step.
"It gives me a look into what I'm going to do in college, how I want to study," said Teddy, 17.
His plan for the end of the year is to graduate with about 40 credits from both the new program as well as from Advanced Placement credit he's already accrued.
"I really don't know if I would have gotten this anywhere else," Teddy said.
For younger students like sophomore Jacob Richardson, the introduction of the program will allow him to plan for the next few years.
"It makes it easier to transfer between high school and college," said Jacob, 15.
The school has also introduced a "guaranteed admission agreement" with Georgian Court University in Lakewood, Ocean County. Students who achieve at least a 2.0 GPA at Holy Cross and score above 900 on the SAT will be accepted.
Guida said students who achieve higher grades and scores will be eligible for more potential scholarship money, but all Holy Cross students who are accepted and enroll will be able to receive about $10,000 per year from the university for being a graduate of a Catholic high school.
Georgian Court President Joseph Marbach is also chairman of the board at Holy Cross, which is how the idea for the partnership came up.
"He knows of the quality of the education that's being offered here," Guida said.
The senior class is the first one to be able to take advantage of this unique relationship, the principal said.
"Based on that 2.0 (GPA) and 900 (SAT score), we believe as of last year's graduating class (that) 85 percent of our students qualify," he said.
The final new initiative is a partnership with the HealthWorks Academies of Media, Pennsylvania, aimed at giving students a chance to learn more about health care employment from those actually in the industry.
"They're calling for a shortage of health care professionals starting around 2020, and we're not just talking about doctors and nurses. We're talking about all the support staff that wraps around the health care industry," Guida said.
About 25 students who have expressed interest in a health care career will be chosen to take specifically designed STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) courses and partner with professionals now working in the health care or science industry. They will shadow the employees to learn about their professions and gain experience in the field, Guida said.
The official launch of the 60th anniversary celebration will begin Feb. 4 with "Jerry Blavat Night," an event featuring the local radio legend and sponsored by the alumni association. Guida also said the district plans a Mass for the community.
For some, such as the Kiefners, the anniversary celebration will include family get-togethers. Three sisters — junior Brenna, 16 and freshman twins Ciara and Caitlin, 14 — attend Holy Cross, and their mother and older sister are alumnae.
"I feel like you're a lot closer with everyone here," Brenna said about her school. "I feel like if I went somewhere else, I wouldn't have the same family aspect."
The only other official date the school has set is for a Jubilee event next Nov. 11, but Guida said there will be others throughout the yearlong celebration.