Tag Archives: Divine Wisdom Catholic Academy

Two Queens children to help greet Pope Francis at JFK Airport

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

HOME REPORTER/Photo by Jaime DeJesus


It’s the special meet-and-greet of a lifetime.

Out of more than 30,000 children attending 86 Catholic schools in Brooklyn and Queens, five were chosen to welcome Pope Francis during his first visit to New York on Thursday.

The children and their parents were congratulated by Brooklyn Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio and Monsignor Jamie Gigantiello, director of the office of parish giving and vicar of development for the Diocese of Brooklyn and Queens, outside of Holy Name Church on Monday, Sept. 21.

Two Queens children are among this special group: Brianna Wood of Rockaway Point, who attends St. Rose of Lima Catholic Academy, and Raymond Rico of Little Neck, who attends Divine Wisdom Catholic Academy.

“Today, we celebrate the children greeting the Holy Father when he comes off the plane as he steps for the first time in New York,” said Gigantiello as he explained what was on the agenda for the historic day. “The children will be presenting him with a spiritual bouquet, which are prayers and acts of kindness for the intentions for him and the success of his visit and also a gift from the Diocese of Brooklyn and Queens.”

The children were chosen by the diocese, which asked principals from various schools to submit names of children that they felt would be suited to represent the diocese as well as greet the pope.

DiMarzio expressed his excitement for the children to be among the first to greet the pope.

“He loves children. I’m so happy we can have them there to greet him with smiling faces,” DiMarzio said. “My advice would be not to be nervous. For the children, it’s a memorable life moment they’ll never forget.”

The kids discussed what the rare opportunity meant to them. “It feels exciting and joyful,” said Wood, a fourth-grader. “He’s close to God and can make this world a better place. I’m a little nervous but excited too.”

Gigantiello also expressed the significance of Pope Francis’s visit.

“This is an exciting time. This is our fifth Holy Father to visit so it’s a great time for our diocese and it’s a time to celebrate our faith and to celebrate our Holy Father’s visit by celebrating Mass with him and listening to him pray,” he said.


Star of Queens: Debbie McCrorie, volunteer for St. Robert Bellarmine and Divine Wisdom Catholic Academy

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com


BACKGROUND: Debbie McCrorie is a Bayside resident and volunteer at St. Robert Bellarmine and Divine Wisdom Catholic Academy since 2000. She runs fundraising events like the Msgr. John B. Lavin Golf & Tennis Outing and the annual Sweetheart Dance. She recently was awarded a lifetime achievement award for her dedication to the school.

COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT: McCrorie assists the board of directors of Divine Wisdom in running fundraising events. She helps to raise money to drive down the cost of tuition for families. Her roles have included office assistant, class mom, president of the Home School Association, and former coordinator for the St. Bellarmine Parish Youth Group.

GREATEST ACHIEVEMENT: “Having my son go through Catholic education and watching the children receive the education that they are with the Catholic background. [With] Catholic education, the children get such a great set of morals and they are like a family. In the school, the kids, they look out for each other and my son, my school, St. Roberts and it’s just a whole different set of morals that I think is very important and I help with that.”

BIGGEST CHALLENGE: “I volunteer a lot and I think my biggest challenge is continuing to do what I do and keeping my health in check. My [other] biggest challenge is to meet our financial goals every year and I help the board of directors with their fundraising and my biggest challenge is meeting that number at the end of every year.”

INSPIRATION: “Other than my son, [someone else who inspires me is] Pastor Geraghty. He is a wonderful pastor and he is such a wonderful man. He takes care of his school community, his church community and I have to say that he is a wonderful inspiration to everyone, the children, the parishioners, everyone.”


Springfield Gardens Girl Scout is city’s top cookie seller for second year

| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of DeAnne Lorde

She truly is the queen of cookie sales.

Springfield Gardens eighth-grader Najah Lorde is once again the top Girl Scout cookie seller in New York City with 1,816 boxes.

Last year, the now-13-year-old more than doubled her sales from the previous year, earning the cookie crown for the first time.

Najah was already aiming for another win shortly after the first one.

But when she found out she was the number one seller for a second time — beating out 10-year-old Brooklyn resident Danielle Bioh, who sold 1,782 boxes, and Manhattan’s Madeleine Noveck, an 8-year-old Brownie who sold 1,728 boxes — the news came as a shock.

Photo courtesy of Girl Scouts of the USA

Photo courtesy of Girl Scouts of the USA

“I was really busy during the Girl Scout cookie season so I didn’t get to sell as much as last year,” she said. “I was grateful and thankful that I was still able to be the top Girl Scout cookie seller.”

Najah’s mother, DeAnne Lorde, was also surprised Najah took the top spot after selling 2,833 boxes the previous year. Unlike last cookie selling season, she said her daughter was preoccupied with high school prep, including exams and applications, while keeping up with her grades.

“She didn’t have the time to put in the amount of effort that she really wanted to,” she said.

But Najah, using both new and old strategies, still sold an impressive amount of the sweet treats.

The Troop 4287 member again used the networking skills normally seen in a much older person, taking contacts from her parents’ phones and asking her customers to reach out to others.

“My favorite part [of selling] is learning all the skills like time management, organization and keeping track of money,” Najah said.

During the selling period — from the second week of December to late January — she sold cookies at her school, Divine Wisdom Catholic Academy in Douglaston; her church, the Greater Allen Cathedral of New York; and her parents’ workplace, SUNY Downstate Medical Center.


Najah Lorde surrounded by boxes of cookies in the U-Haul truck her family had to rent to pick up her cookies after she became the top seller for the first time last year. (THE COURIER/File photo)

She also decided to try a new selling method this year — social media.

Najah posted an image of her sales sheet on her father’s Facebook page as a way to find more customers.

This year was also the first time in the nearly 100-year history of the cookie program that Girl Scouts got to sell the baked goods online through their own digital stores. The three top sellers all had significantly higher-than-average digital cookie sales, according to the Girl Scouts of Greater New York. With the help of the new online sales tool, the city’s Girl Scouts sold 1,084,526 boxes this year, up from 998,580 boxes the previous year.

“The focus of the cookie program is on teaching girls leadership and business skills in a fun setting that also builds courage and character,” said Girl Scouts of Greater New York CEO Barbara Murphy-Warrington. “Setting goals and developing a sales strategy, making independent decisions, managing money, learning to communicate well with people, understanding business ethics — these are all skills our girls acquire that will serve them well throughout their lives.”

In addition to being named the number one seller, Najah, along with each Girl Scout who sold more than 1,000 boxes, received all the prizes offered, including an iPad Air.

“I’m not sure about next year. I’ll just have to wait and see what’s going to happen,” Najah said about taking the top spot for a third time in a row.

Her mother says high school could get in the way of her cookie selling, but they are ready to “follow her lead.”

“We are ready to take on whatever she is ready to take on.”


Douglaston school walks against bullying

| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

Students from the Divine Wisdom Catholic Academy School embarked on their first “Stamp Out Bullying Walkathon” on Friday in an effort to remind themselves and the community about the damaging effects of students picking on each other.

“This walk is meant to stomp out bullying,” eighth-grader Lena Vella said. “It’s meant to teach people how to take action.”

The trek from the school on Northern Boulevard to a ballpark on Cloverdale Boulevard was made by 250 students, Prinicipal Michael Laforgia and several teachers. A new student-run program in the school called the Pope Francis Society hosted the event. Once students made it to the ballpark, a selected group of kids read essays on bullying to their classmates. A group of students from Divine Wisdom’s other campus in Bayside also held a walkathon and the two converged on the ball park. Most of the students wore orange shirts, the color of their cause.

Laforgia became principal of the pre-K-8 Catholic school four years ago, and students, teachers and parents credit him with making the students more aware of bullying.

“These kids don’t walk into the school with a halo,” Laforgia said. “So we have to be very active in preventing bullying. I hope in the quiet of their day they’ll take a moment to reflect on this.”

Lena and three other classmates volunteered to write their own essays for the event. They are all part of the Pope Francis Society, which is made up of about 40 students who meet together once a week with Laforgia and teachers. Most importantly, Lena said, they’re given the task of keeping an eye out for bullying in school, acting as hall-monitors against aggressive behavior.

“I hate that so many people just watch when others are picked on,” said Laura Toscano, Lena’s classmate. “We’re trying to get people to be friendly.”


Queens Girl Scout cookie champ ready to hand out sweet treats

| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of DeAnne Lorde

This Queens Girl Scout is one smart cookie.

Springfield Gardens seventh-grader Najah Lorde more than doubled her cookie sales from last year to become the top seller in the city with 2,833 boxes.

Najah, 12, has been selling cookies since she joined the Girl Scouts in second grade, but didn’t surpass the 1,000 mark until 2013 when she sold 1,111 boxes.

That year, she was bested by Upper West Side resident Olivia Cranshaw by about 700 boxes.

Cranshaw set a goal of selling over 2,000 this year. She exceeded that number by 141, but Najah had the right ingredients for a win.

“I was running and screaming all over the house,” Najah said, describing the moment she found out she was the cookie champ.

Each Girl Scout that sells over 1,000 boxes receives all the prizes offered, including a Nintendo Wii and Sephora gift card.

“If you are the top seller you just win bragging rights,” Najah said.

“She’s very competitive, Najah’s father Donovan Lorde said. “She was very determined when the sale started.”

Najah, a member of Troop 4287, claimed she had no special strategy, but her father said she did have a plan, she just didn’t realize it.

He said she made a list of the people she wanted to call and even took his and his wife’s phones to look for potential buyers. Using her networking skills, the preteen urged her contacts to reach out to others.

The Girl Scout said she received a lot of support from family. She also sold the baked goods at her school, Divine Wisdom Catholic Academy in Douglaston, her church, the Greater Allen Cathedral of New York, and her parents’ workplace, SUNY Downstate Medical Center.

“When we tallied up the numbers and we saw 2,833, we were like ‘wow that is a lot of boxes,’” Donovan said.

“To a certain degree we were surprised by the number, but we weren’t surprised that she did it,” he added.

Najah is aiming for another win next year by selling at least 3,000 boxes.

Though her father is supportive of her ambitions, he admits the goal makes him somewhat “afraid.”

This Saturday, the boxes are set to arrive and they will need to figure out how to store, transport and hand out all those cookies.

“We are going to need a very big vehicle to pick up the boxes,” Donovan said.




Star of Queens: Suzanne Karl, chair, board of directors, Divine Wisdom Catholic Academy

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com



Community Involvement: Three years ago, the building that once was known as St. Anastasia’s School in Douglaston reopened as the Divine Wisdom Catholic Academy. The chairperson of the board of directors for the academy, Suzanne Karl, talked about how she was devastated when she first heard the school was closing.

“My two sons went to St. Anastasia’s and when I heard it was closing it broke my heart,” she said. “I wanted to find a way to keep the school open. It had to close and if it was to reopen it would be as an academy.”

Now, Karl says the academy is growing strong with around 400 students attending and a second campus to reopen in Bayside where St. Robert Bellarmine once held classes.

As chairperson, Karl heads all the financial activities for the academy, such as marketing, advertising and fundraising. “Right now we’re working with Catholic Schools Week and we did all the marketing and advertisements for that,” she said. “We also held open houses and meet with prospective parents and answered any questions they may have.”

Karl also sits on the advisory committee for Preserving the Vision, a program geared to expanding the outreach of Catholic schools in the Brooklyn Diocese, as well as preserving their religious identity. Karl says she is entering her sixth and last year on the committee as members are only allowed two three-year terms.

Personal Background:  Karl grew up in Middle Village and has been living in Douglaston for the past 19 years. “I’m a Queens girl.”

Inspiration:  Karl says her inspiration came after the tragic events of 9/11, “My brother-in-law was a firefighter who died that day,” she said. “The community embraced my sister and niece and nephew and the caring that came out of that made me want to give back. That taught me how important it is to give back.”

Favorite memory: “In 2009, in September, when the school opened for the first time. Watching the kids coming in and smiling and knowing they didn’t have to go to another Catholic school or a public school. That was the happiest moment of my life, besides the birth of my children.”

Biggest Challenges: “Finances. We’ve put in so many enrichment programs that we always have to find sources to fund them. We have Spanish that starts in kindergarten and we also do art and so we have to hire teachers for that. We’re always looking to raise funds and looking for donors.”



Two Queens Catholic schools to merge next year

| mchan@queenscourier.com

Two Catholic schools in northeast Queens will merge and operate under one name in September 2013.

St. Robert Bellarmine School, located at 56-10 214th Street in Bayside, will reopen under Divine Wisdom Catholic Academy in the next school year after board of directors at both schools unanimously approved the expansion this month.

The Bayside school will be called the Divine Wisdom Catholic Academy at St. Robert Bellarmine campus. It will join Divine Wisdom’s current campus at St. Anastasia, located at 45-11 245th Street in Douglaston.

“In an age when Catholic schools are being closed in our city and in the whole nation, this is a strong and confident step in the other direction,” said Monsignor Martin Geraghty of St. Robert’s.

The change will have no effect on students, who will continue attending their respective campuses, Geraghty said.

But while existing administration, staff and faculty at Divine Wisdom will stay in place, employment at St. Robert’s will cease when the school year ends, said officials.

Geraghty said staff members could reapply for jobs at Divine Wisdom.

Some St. Robert’s community members, including Geraghty, are expected to be added to Divine Wisdom’s board of directors.

“We’re confident that we will be able to grow stronger by combining our assets and growing together as a larger community dedicated to excellence,” Geraghty said. “We will be able to take what are already two very good schools and make them superior.”