BY ANTHONY O’REILLY
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.”