St. Nicholas has grown enrollment 12 years running

By Joyce Duriga
Sunday, September 18, 2016

St. Nicholas has grown enrollment 12 years running

Eighth grade teacher Billy Schauer makes his way out of a limo while arriving for the first day of school at St. Nicholas of Tolentine, 3741 W. 62nd St., on Aug. 22. The school welcomed back returning students by laying out a red carpet at the entrance and teachers arrived in a long stretch limousine to add to the fun of the first day. (Karen Callaway/Catholic New World)
Kindergarten student Maya Jimenez uses her backpack for shade while waiting for the first day of school to begin. (Karen Callaway/Catholic New World)
Food Service Professional Carmen Islas give a high-five to kindergarten student Lorelei Alvarado while she walks the red carpet. (Karen Callaway/Catholic New World)
Preschool students Jesus and Judas Rosas wait with their parents to enter the building. (Karen Callaway/Catholic New World)
School board member Maureen Keane interviews seventh grader Ayden Mercado about what's in his backpack on the first day of school. (Karen Callaway/Catholic New World)
Father Salvador Den Hallegado, administrator, gives a blessing to students prior to the start of the school day on Aug. 22. (Karen Callaway/Catholic New World)

For the past 12 years, St. Nicholas of Tolentine School, 3741 W. 62nd St., has continuously increased its enrollment. In 2004, they had 240 students and now have 375. How did they do it? They got to know their community.

“We became more culturally sensitive. A lot of our practices in school were more geared toward the European culture. With the many Hispanic families who were coming through our doors we started to become more culturally sensitive and really getting to know our Hispanic families and their needs,” said Principal Mariagnes Menden.

They also made most things bilingual, such as the library collection and materials for parents.

“We value their language,” Menden said.

The school also introduced more Mexican traditions like devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe.

In most Catholic schools, families are part of the community, but St. Nicholas of Tolentine has really made them welcome with events like regular taco dinners and dances.

“We always invite the families for anything,” she said. They also accommodate their needs like providing child care during parent meetings.

“We allow parents to bring their children with them. Then we have something for the children to do while the parents are attending our parents’ focus group,” Menden said.

They’ve also opened up the school as a center for the community and allowed parents to come in on certain evenings to use the computer lab. The school offers English as a second language classes for parents three days a week in both the mornings and evenings.

Staff works with each family individually to find financial assistance to make a Catholic education possible for their children.

In St. Nicholas of Tolentine’s case, it’s more of a question of what they aren’t doing.

It’s also a fine-arts school and offer music and dance classes, including ballroom dance and ballet and guitar, violin and piano classes. Grants cover most of the cost of instruments. This year they are starting a mariachi band.

“We’re a very welcoming community,” Menden said. “I think that’s what Catholic schools do best. They build that family atmosphere in the school. That’s really what a parent wants when they send their child to a Catholic school. We’re almost an extension of their home.”


  • catholic schools
  • st. nicholas of tolentine

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