St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic School forced to close for good - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic School forced to close for good

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St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic High School first opened doors in Ordot in 2008 and was founded by Monsignor James Benavente and a group of Catholic families who wanted to put together a strong faith based program complete with small class sizes, high-caliber faculty, and an expansive college preparatory curriculum. Fast-forward to today, and less than a decade in operation, the Archdiocese of Agana recently announced the Home of the Lions must close its doors at the end of the school year.   

Not a dry eye was in sight at the Ordot school on Friday. "One child in particular stood up today said, 'I love school. I used to hate school, I love this school because they accepted me for who I am.' We're too small not to accept people for who they are. Kids are given the ability to just be who they are," explained principal Pilar Perez Williams. The tears followed bad news from the Archdiocese of Agana. Citing small student enrollment and inadequate financial resources, Williams made the announcement that this school year would be their last.

"It's been a difficult time for our kids, most especially the school community is devastated. But we have taken it to another level. We've encouraged our kids to remember why they came," she added.

What started as just 15 high school students back in 2008 has grown to 55, 10 of whom will be the last graduating class of St. Thomas Aquinas. "I think for me I think that's the hardest part - to see that these kids won't have a place next year. Our encouragement is whatever place they choose to go to whether it's in the Catholic school system, which I hope they go or any other school that they bring the Aquinas spirit wherever they go. And make each school better because they were there," Williams said.

Also in need of a new home are the school's 10 faculty and staff who've offered the curriculum and academic guidance to land many St. Thomas alumni full-ride scholarships to Ivy League schools. "It's expensive, education," the principal continued. While you can't put a dollar figure to a good education, it's unfortunate that that's the bottom line. Financially the school has struggled and having such a small population and still doing everything we need to do for them, it's been difficult."

Despite the sad news, Williams smiles as she remains confident her students will persevere. She smiles as just outside her office, she can hear students practicing the recorder and playing piano. She said, "They're going places and they're not being held back by the limitations of a two-story building. Somebody looks at the school and says its only two stories. We're more than just two stories. We're more than that."

The campus will close its doors at the end of July following the conclusion of summer school.

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