Joliet Catholic Academy kicked off the 2018-2019 school year with excitement all around as students returned to campus at 1200 N. Larkin Ave. in Joliet for the first day of classes on August 17. A nip was in the air…literally, as JCA capped off the second phase of its most recent capital campaign “Honoring our Past…Building our Future”. As of this fall, all classrooms at JCA are now fully air conditioned with cutting edge Mitsubishi Ductless Air Conditioning units, allowing each classroom to set its own temperature. New windows throughout the front and back of campus, coupled with air conditioning, are saving on energy costs.
As students began to roam the halls this fall, they also have experienced several new additions to the campus in the past year: a renovated weight room, a new dance studio, a new prayer garden, new softball dugouts, and the centerpiece of summer renovations: the Mary, Our Sister Chapel.
The Mary, Our Sister Chapel was made possible by the generous donation of Laverne and Dorothy Brown. The space serves as the campus focal point, a spiritual center that will be a place of prayer, community, contemplation, and peace. Both religious orders who co-sponsor JCA: the Franciscans and the Carmelites, have a long tradition of special devotion to Mary. The title of the Franciscan sisters is “Sisters of St Francis of Mary Immaculate.” The Carmelites identify themselves as “The Brothers of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel.” Consequently, dedicating the new JCA Chapel to the Blessed Virgin Mary recognizes both traditions. The Joliet Franciscans have generously donated a 6’6” San Damiano Cross as the centerpiece of the new Mary, Our Sister Chapel. The cross was constructed and hand painted in Assisi. In depth explanations of the cross and relics located in the newly renovated chapel are also on display.
Support from both the Carmelites and the Franciscans has been paramount as JCA celebrates the 150-year anniversary of Catholic high school in Joliet, started by the Franciscan Sisters with St. Francis Academy in 1869. Throughout 28 years as a co-educational school, the Joliet Franciscan Sisters have also generously provided discounted rent for the school property, allowing JCA to continue to prosper financially. The Carmelites provide two half-tuition scholarship each year to incoming freshmen students via the Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Parish Carmelite Scholarships and the Franciscans sponsor the endowed Helen McKeon scholarship.
Financial aid to families has been increasing yearly thanks to JCA’s generous alumni and benefactors, as well as the implementation of a new and exciting tuition assistance program for the 2018-2019 school year: “Leveraged Financial Aid”. Leveraged Financial is just that…Leveraged. JCA matches a students’ tuition rate to their family’s unique, financial position. The tuition at JCA is not a one size fits all. It’s a range…a range that spans from about 25% to 90% of the full cost of this high-quality Catholic education. Families interested in Leveraged Financial Aid simply submit a financial profile to a confidential third-party service online called FACTS. Based on a recommendation to the JCA administration, a family’s leveraged financial aid package is confirmed. JCA’s incoming freshman class for 2018 saw a seventeen percent increase in enrollment from one year ago, thanks in large part to Leveraged Financial aid, gifts from the JCA Endowment, and assistance from the Joliet Diocese Catholic Education Foundation.
Academic excellence has long been a staple of Joliet Catholic Academy in the community, and the Class of 2018 continued that trend. 79 students in the Class of 2018 graduated with a “Perfect Record”, 27 students graduated as members of the JCA Honors Program, 31 students were named Illinois State Scholars, and sixty-eight percent of the Class of 2018 earned college scholarships totaling $12 million overall and $75,000 per student spread out over four years. The mean ACT score was 30.3 for Honors Program students and the 2018 class averaged a 24.4 on the ACT, well above the Illinois state public school average of 21.2 from 2017. Angels and Hilltoppers can also earn Advanced Placement and junior college credits, with seventy percent of the Class of 2018 passing A.P. examinations to earn college credit, well above the state and local public-school averages (65.6% and 37.6% respectively) from 2017. Members of the Class of 2018 will attend 69 different colleges located across 25 different states including schools such as Loyola-Chicago, DePaul, Tennessee, Illinois, Butler, Notre Dame, St. Francis, Lewis, Wisconsin, Indiana, Missouri, Arkansas, Alabama, Dayton, St. Louis, Fordham, Iowa, Columbia-Chicago, Stony Brook, Creighton, Ball State, Auburn, Oklahoma State, North Central, LaSalle, Coastal Carolina, St. Louis College of Pharmacy, Milwaukee School of Engineering, Bradley, and Rutgers.
Extra-curricular success continues early in the 2018-2019 school year at JCA. The girls volleyball program is ranked No. 7 in the state of Illinois, and recently defeated No. 2 ranked Mother McAuley in their home opener. The Hilltopper football team defeated Catholic League traditional power St. Rita 30-20 at Joliet Memorial Stadium in the home opener. The JCA girls tennis program, led by two-time state qualifier junior Mia Bertino defeated Plainfield South and Providence during its first week of competition and JCA boys soccer recently captured the War on 34 Tournament consolation bracket championship with wins over Kewanee 5-1 and Morris 9-0. The JCA drama department recently announced the annual fall play, Neil Simon’s “Rumors” and the JCA Band is excited with an increase its roster not seen in recent years with thirteen incoming freshmen participating.
The first week of school wrapped up with the annual Opening School Mass and Senior Induction, celebrating the installation of the Class of 2019 as leaders within the halls of JCA. 150 years of tradition between St. Francis Academy, Joliet Catholic High School, and Joliet Catholic Academy has provided a model for the Class of 2019 to follow for this year and beyond.