Alumni, Students, Family and Faculty Save a School; Immaculate Conception High School Will Stay Open
MONTCLAIR, NJ - One month ago, on June 10, in the middle of final exams, Newark Archbishop John J. Myers announced to the faculty and students of Immaculate Conception High School, Montclair, that come September, the school would be closing by the end of the month. The bishop stated that the reason for the closure was the school's debt of over $500,000 and the dwindling student enrollment. Only ten days before, the school had celebrated its 85th graduation.
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.
The two teachers, along with their co-workers, immediately began phoning friends and alumni to make the school's predicament known and to direct everyone to the donation site.
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,"
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.
Alumni and friends quickly came to their assistance and slowly money began to accumulate in the online account set up to receive the contributions. In the first week alone, the school raised over $211,000.
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.
Video Credit: Amy B. Popp
On July 4, the school marched as a unit in Montclair's Independence Day Parade, handing out postcards which announced the school's fundraising campaign and selling school t-shirts. Marching alongside them were many supporters including
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.
But the bulk of the fundraising came simply from online contributions, and they are still needed. On Tuesday, Kevin Cummings, President & CEO of Investors Bank, announced "The fight is not over!" and pledged that the bank was matching the next $30,000 added to the fund.
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.
On July 14, the school was granted a reprieve. A letter addressed to Immaculate Conception Board of Trustees Chair William C. Slattery was sent from the archbishop stating: "Immaculate Conception High School will be open in September."
"You have achieved something we do not often see
"I am gratified by the Archbishop’s confidence in Immaculate," commented
The school still needs to meet it's goal of $500,000; donations are being accepted and welcomed.
To access the site online, click here.
Checks by mail may be sent to:
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!
Myers was installed in Newark in 2001; since 1999, his diocese has closed 78 schools. This year Newark Schools Blessed Pope John XXIII Academy in West Orange, Most Sacred Heart of Jesus School in Wallington, St. Agnes School in Clark and Saints Mary and Elizabeth Academy in Linden all closed their doors.
Immaculate Conception High School, located at 33 Cottage Place in Montclair, NJ, strives, within the context of family, to develop the whole person: morally, intellectually, socially, and physically. Recognizing the worth and uniqueness of each individual, the school prepares students for life beyond high school, so that as responsible Christians, they will make a difference in the world of today and tomorrow. Admission to Immaculate Conception High School is open to young men and women of any background who fulfill our academic requirements. Please call Ms. Kathy Badillo, Director of Admissions, 973-744-7445, ext. 24.