- by Carolyne Volpe Curley / Carolyne@WestEssexNOW.com
"There were just over 40 graduates this past June, many with high honors," Barbara Hughes of
Students and faculty set to work establishing a plan of fundraising events which would help to offset the school's debt. Two members of the faculty, Carlos Franco and Ryan Horan, set up a Go Fund Me "Keep Immaculate Conception High School Open" online account which allows anyone to make a contribution to the school.
Class of '84 Alumna Barbara Hughes has remained active with the football teams over the past 15 years. She got together a small group of other alumni Kevin Kinney '79, of West Caldwell, Suzanne Alworth '79 , of Verona, Sean Morris '94, of Bloomfield, Tim Fox '94 of Clifton and Omar Mitchell '96 of East Orange, so that they could strategize on a series of upcoming fundraising events.
During the first week after the announcement, the students held a car wash and bake sale, and a few days after that, the NJ Jackals donated 300 game tickets which the students sold with all the proceeds going to the school.
"I am a proud graduate of Immaculate and I treasure the experiences and friendships forged through my association with the school,"
commented Kevin Kinney of West Caldwell.
"There are far too few opportunities out there for kids seeking a quality private education and it is very important that the mission continue."
Additionally, the school's Board of Trustees met and individually wrote checks totaling over $103,000. Many local businesses contributed to the effort and companies including Horizon, Sealed Air, Prudential and PSEG each gave matching gifts of $5,000.
By June 17, the Archbishop conceded that if the school could put in place a proper financial plan, and increase enrollment, then by July 15, the diocese would consider keeping the school open this coming fall. Faculty, alumni, parents and friends of ICHS made phone calls and actively publicized the fundraising efforts through social media. Students also wrote moving letters to the archdiocese, expressing their love for the high school.
the district's Assemblyman Thomas P. Giblin who had put his own children through the school and is an Immaculate Board Member. By July 8, the school had raised $342,126, meeting 68% of their goal.
At every fundraising occasion, all food, beverages and entertainment were entirely donated, in most cases by alumni and parents of students. The effort really grew with a "Family Reunion" gathering at the Friendly Sons of the Shillelagh Club in West Orange on July 12.
"At the Shillelagh Party, we had over 200 attendees, from almost every decade that the school has been in existence," Hughes expressed.
At present, the high's school online account has accumulated over $488,000 from 949 contributors. Donors decide the amount that they want to give and no amount is too small; donations can even be made anonymously. Many have donated $5, $10 and $15 and some have donated thousands, including two anonymous donations of $10,000, a couple who gave $15,000 and two individuals who each donated $30,000 anonymously. Many gave in the name of family members and others donated in gratitude for their own time spent at the school as students.
John Nolan of Caldwell commented, "I hope they reach their goal and stay open. My two sisters, my mom, and both of my mom's parents went there.
It would be a shame to lose this school that my family loved so much."
"You have achieved something we do not often see
when a school faces this kind of challenge," the bishop wrote.
"I am gratified by the Archbishop’s confidence in Immaculate," commented
Immaculate Conception Board of Trustees Chair William C. Slattery.
"The Board, administration, faculty, parents and students
are working day and night to re-establish a sound economic footing
so that Immaculate can continue to provide
a quality Catholic education to the young people of Essex County."
To access the site online, click here.
Save Immaculate Appeal
Immaculate Conception High School
33 Cottage Place, Montclair, NJ 07042.
In addition, Barbara Hughes explained that the school will be bringing the booster club back to life over the next few months to help with fundraising and scholarships for scholar athletes. Going forward it will be known as the Blue Lion Boosters.
"Immaculate was a big part of who I am today!
I loved my time there and am so excited that the Archdiocese
has responded to the huge, impressive outpouring by
Immaculate's Alumni and supporters to keep the school open.
Before charter schools and magnet schools were the norm,
Immaculate Conception High School was "school choice"
for me and my family in Newark!
It is exciting that the experience I received as a Proud Lion
will continue to shape many generations to come.
The important lesson in this is that the Alumni
continue these efforts to make sure this does not happen again!"
~ Phil Alagia, of Fairfield
Chief of Staff for Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo
Immaculate Conception Class of 1985; Lions Football Player and Wrestler