With Thanksgiving right around the corner, many students and faculty members are thinking about everything they are thankful for. One of these things, of course, is McNicholas High School. The Milestone surveyed the faculty and student body to find the top 30 things they love about McNick.
The Family: Overwhelmingly, people said that their favorite aspect of McNicholas is the community environment. The people of McNick are like family, and this special bond seems to go beyond that of most other high schools. Everyone at McNick truly cares about one another, and comes together to support fellow rockets.
The Faculty: One of the biggest parts of that McNicholas family is the faculty. All of the teachers and staff of McNicholas are incredibly dedicated and passionate about McNick. They spend countless hours teaching or working with the students and running the school. They are not just instructors or authority figures though. McNick students repeatedly said that the teachers and faculty at McNick act as role models, cheerleaders, and friends. Time and time again, they are there to help students achieve their potential and make their high school experience great.
The Students: What would a school be without students to teach? These young rockets are the reason for McNicholas. As pupils to the teachers and friends to their peers, it’s the students that bring McNick to life. “[Our students] are good people at heart, and that shows,” Student Moderator Gerard Kissel said. “They care about each other, and they care about the school.”
Kirch: Mr. John Kirchgassner has devoted 42 years of his life teaching history at McNick. From the way his face lights up as he lectures about history, to the way he greets everyone as he rides down senior hall, anyone can tell how much Kirch loves McNick. He brings a life to the material he teaches that his students admire, and he has made a huge impact on the school. The fact that he is number four on this list is a testament to the dedication and joy he brings to the McNicholas family. “Kirch is the best,” senior Claire Griffiths said. “He knows so much and tells such great stories. We love him!”
Cookies: What better snack to sweeten the day than a package of cookies from the McNick café? These moist and delicious treats fly off the shelves each day. “We sell about 500 cookies each day,” Cafeteria Manager Deb Faulkner said. “[The students] love them.”
Mardi Gras: The Mardi Gras Ball is a tradition completely unique to McNicholas High School. Started by the Sisters of St. Joseph who founded McNicholas, it is the most important reminder of McNick’s heritage. It is an event that honors those who have shown commitment to serving McNick and others, and it brings the entire McNick family together in celebration.
Tablets: The Tablet PCs have become valuable learning tools for the students at McNick. Over the past three years, the program has developed with the use of OneNote, DyKnow, and now Schoology to intergrade technology and education into a great learning experience for the McNicholas students.
Paradise: Over these past four years, the area referred to as “Paradise” has come to life with the addition of the football/soccer field, the stands, the parking lot, and now the landscaping. This year McNick had the opportunity to host a play-off game at Penn Station Stadium. Paradise has become a great gathering space for the entire McNicholas community to come together and enjoy supporting Rocket athletes.
Academics: Academics is a key priority at McNicholas. Both the students and teachers strive for success. All core courses are offered in multiple levels of Honors, CP1, and CP2, to provide the best learning experience for each student. There are also 13 AP courses offered. In the past ten years, 34 students have been named National Merit semi-finalists and nearly 70 have received recognition as commended students. In last year’s graduating class, 66% of seniors received scholarship money for college, with a combined value of more than $10 million.
Sports: McNicholas also has a highly successful athletics program. In the fall sports season that is just now coming to a close, almost every sport advanced to post-season play.
Retreats: The retreats at McNick are not just a graduation requirement, but something that the students look forward to and that brings the entire McNicholas family together. Students go on a class retreat each year, leading up to the senior retreat, Kairos. Students also have the opportunity to go on the Appalachia retreat and the Nicaragua Immersion Trip as additional retreat experiences.
Pep rallies: From teacher flash mobs, to a performance by the men’s dance team, Spirit Club works hard to make every pep rally special. These pep rallies give the students and faculty a nice break from the norm. Seniors Scott Frenzel and Lauren Garrison, co-presidents of Spirit Club, try to come up with something fresh and fun for each pep rally. “We like to get a lot of people involved and try to give it an interactive show feel,” Frenzel said. “My favorite was our first pep rally this year [with the men’s dance team]. Everyone loved it.”
Electives: The Faculty has worked hard to create a wide variety of electives that students can take while they are at McNick. The 25 electives involve art, music, writing, technology, and even learning to play guitar. With so many options, every student can find something they’ll enjoy.
Clubs: Another great way for students to get involved around campus is through clubs. The many clubs cover a variety of interests, from International Club, to Cooking Club, to Fishing Club any student can find something fun to get involved in. The most popular club by far is Service Club. Almost one third of the student population comes together through this club to organize service projects and hold collections for many local organizations.
Catholic Education: Religion is one of the main aspects of education at McNick. Every student will take two semester religion courses each year, but the religious environment of the school goes far beyond classroom instruction. Students appreciate they have the opportunity to open and close each day with prayer, and how McNick brings everyone together in a community of God.
Ms. Deb: Ms. Deb is much more than just a lunch lady to the people of McNicholas. Day after day, she goes above and beyond to bring more options to the café menu, and to make the lunch time experience a great one. She goes out of her way to talk to the students as they go through the line, and she keeps that café open all day so that they can grab breakfast in the morning or a snack after school. She and her entire staff work hard to provide all those hungry teenagers and teachers with all the delicious food they desire.
“Ms. Deb is an understanding person who makes my life simple,” junior Reagen Powers said. “We also have the best conversations during study hall. We have a lot of the same taste in music.”
History: One thing that McNick values greatly is its history. The convent building stands as a reminder of the Sisters of Saint Joseph and how the school has evolved since it became McNicholas is 1951. The McNicholas community also holds tightly to the many traditions that make McNick special.
Donuts with the Principal: Who doesn’t love a little bit of sugar in the morning? PTSA sponsors Donuts with the Principal each quarter to help sweeten the school day. Students have the opportunity to grab a bite to eat and say ‘good morning’ to Principal Patty Beckert as she serves up the pastries.
Uniforms: While many students complain about having a dress code, perhaps the thing students complain about the most is one of the things they appreciate the most. Uniforms eliminate any stress that accompanies choosing an outfit every morning.
Jeans Days: As thankful as students are for those uniforms, sometimes it’s nice to have a break from the norm. Many Fridays during the school year are designated as jeans days, where students can wear their favorite blue jeans, as well as spirit wear t-shirt and sweatpants. These days give students the opportunity to relax in their casual wear, and to raise money for school organizations. On every one of these occasions, students pay a $1 or $2 to be out of uniform and to support their school community.
Being Co-ed: In this respect, McNick is truly special. Of all the catholic schools in the area, McNick is one of only three that is co-ed. Students who attend a co-ed school tend to be better prepared social when they go to college and enter the work force.
“We live in a co-ed world,” Religion teacher Sam Roflow said. “Boys and girls can learn from each other. We have to learn to get along and work together. My experience teaching in a single sex school showed that otherwise bright young women were very immature socially. When I came here, it was refreshing to see boys and girls that could be friends with each other.”
The Library: The McNicholas Library is one of the many sanctuaries for students on campus. It has more than 19,000 books and reference materials, as well a wide variety of magazines and six Nooks that students can check out. It is also a great space for students work on homework, relax, and chat with friends before and after school. The library is open from 7 a.m. – 5 p.m. so that students who have to arrive early or leave late because of a parent’s schedule have somewhere to go. Many students who visit the library, though, just go because they love the environment.
Coaches: McNicholas is proud to have a very successful sports program, and none of that would be possible without the coaches. Many of these coaches are even McNick teachers or alumni. They dedicate a great deal of their time to training the young athletes of McNick and forming strong relationships with those students.
The Spring Musical: Of all the McNicholas Theater productions, the Spring Musical is by far the most anticipated. One of the reasons that the Musicals are so special is that so many students are involved. Over sixty students are involved in each production, and it allows other students who don’t take theater to get involved in a performance.
Liturgy Choir: McNick has an excellent Liturgy Choir that performs during masses. Led by Director Chris Albanese, more than fifty McNick students sing and play music during mass. One particular crowd favorite song is “Siyahamba.”
Extended Lunch Bells: At McNick, the lunch periods are 48 minutes, the same length as a full class period. Students really appreciate this extra time during the lunch bell that they can go to the library and work on homework, or they can have that time to relax and catch up with friends.
Lounge areas: There are many places on campus where students can gather to hang out with friends before and after school. Two of the favorite hangouts are the courtyard and the new lobby. When the weather is nice, the courtyard is a great place to enjoy the sunshine. Since all the new furniture arrived in the lobby, though, it has become a student favorite now that winter has arrived.
Block Days: Very few schools give students the opportunity to experience both bell and block scheduling. Once a month, classes are held in block scheduling, so that science classes in particular have longer class periods to do more in depth labs. Many teachers take these long bells as an opportunity to do fun class activities and projects.
Janitors: Every morning, when the students and faculty enter McNick, it is pristine. The bathrooms are fresh and clean, and the floors practically sparkle. This would not be possible were it not for the janitors who work for hours every day after school to clean the building. Janitor Mike Woodruff especially spends all of his time every day fixing things around the school. His dedication to McNick is the reason for his nomination as Cintas’ Janitor of the Year Award. Students can vote for Woodruff here until Dec. 2.
Benefactors: McNick could not exist without all the benefactors who donate money to the school. Support from these generous donations help pay for teachers’ salaries and to fund new improvements to the school. Were it not for so many supportive benefactors, McNick would not be the great institution it is today.