Three years ago, in spring and summer of 2019, 22 Cleveland-area families agreed to send their sons to a private school without its own building, with completely brand new teachers, with no previous graduates, with no tuition, and with a connection to a school that otherwise probably seemed unattainable to them.
And in August of that year, those boys set foot on the campus of Saint Ignatius High School as the first class of students in The Welsh Academy, an extension of this 130-year-old institution that was attempting to do something new.
A few years, one pandemic, and many classes and experiences later, those boys have emerged—and graduated—into a world where they are better prepared for what’s to come. At their graduation on May 25, Principal Mary Ann Vogel recited what these boys had written in their applications that they wanted from their school—teachers who care, new ways to learn, chances to try new things, a school day that was fun.
Hearing straight from the boys earlier that day, their experience seems to have met many of their desires.
“It’s been great having the opportunities that they give you, to have the affinities after school, learning new things every day, not having just your average classes,” says Marcello Verde, who will attend Saint Ignatius next year.
No doubt this school was different from the ones these boys attended previously. The Welsh Academy has as its pillars: Encounter, Care, Deeper Teaching, and Deeper Learning. And so students’ growth extended beyond knowledge and course material.
“The most important thing I’ve learned is more self-control and maturity,” says Jonathon Feliciano, another future Wildcat. “Coming from sixth grade, you’re all running around and don’t know what to do. But Mr. Cody and the other teachers helped us and provided us with things to help us mature properly.”
These past three years, with all the challenges of the pandemic and growing pains from a new school, were a journey that this group of boys walked together.
“Some of my favorite memories have to be spending time with my friends and learning more about not only my friends and myself, but the entire community of Saint Ignatius. It’s helped me grow a lot,” says Marcello.
So what are their takeaways as they go off to high school—some to Saint Ignatius and others to new schools?
“Do all your work. Always try your hardest,” says Randy Quinones-Santiago, who is attending St. Martin de Porres High School in August.
“When I first came in here, my faith was real low. I didn’t know much about Theology,” says Joshua Plum, who is attending Saint Ignatius. “But since I’ve been here my faith has grown a lot.”
“When I was having a tough time, two of my teachers came to help cool me down,” says Adan Rosales-Ramirez, who will attend Benedictine High School this fall. “You know that you’re safe and protected. You know that they’ve got your back.”
“I’ve changed a lot. At first I was kind of cooped up in a shell,” Marcello says. “I was mainly relying on myself to make myself happy, but now I can open up to other people. I can talk to others and understand them. Now I can share with my friends and people I know a lot more than what I used to.”
“I’m most grateful for the opportunity of being here,” says Jonathon. “Not a lot of people know about this, and you have the opportunity to go to one of the best high schools in Cleveland. It’s just a big opportunity with the education you get.”
Nearly all of these boys are attending private, Catholic schools for high school, and every single one of them can always call Kesicki Hall home.
It only happens once in any school’s history, that it welcomes and then sends out its first class of students. For this inaugural Class of 2022, they will always share a common past. Now it’s time for them to seize the future.
They are ready.
by Connor Walters '09