Catholic academy in Emsworth to concentrate on careers

Bobby Cherry
| Wednesday, April 9, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

A new Catholic high school in Emsworth aims to offer students the chance to work in corporate-level settings in some of the region's biggest companies.

When Holy Family Academy opens in the fall, students in the inaugural freshman class will partner in a corporate environment with companies such as UPMC, Giant Eagle, Eaton Corp. and the Steelers, program director and Principal Ron Zangaro said.

“Our graduates will be prepared to either go to college, go directly to the workforce or go into a trade school,” he said. “There's a significant portion of students who probably don't have a goal to go to college. They have or need to start earning a living in a career.”

The school, operated through Holy Family Institute, will accept about 100 freshmen for the 2014-15 school year. New freshmen can enroll each year until the school includes ninth- to 12-grade students. Tuition will be based on a sliding scale, taking into account what a family can afford.

Students will spend a day or two each week working alongside executives in areas such as human resources and finance, Zangaro said.

“Most high-schoolers will work stocking shelves or being a cashier, and our kids will actually be in corporate learning basic office skills,” he said. “Where else is a kid who is 14 going get the chance to work in a corporate setting at Giant Eagle?”

O'Hara-based Giant Eagle Inc. will host four students for the fall semester who will work two days a week at the corporate office, handling administrative tasks, spokesman Dick Roberts said, adding the company will provide transportation.

Eaton also will bring in four students who will work in its offices in Moon. The students will learn how offices run, said Steve Pilotti, vice president of human resources.

“We want them to get a feel for what it's like to work in this environment,” he said.

Zangaro said the work experience will set Holy Family Academy apart from public and private schools in the region. Wages earned at the jobs will be used to help pay for each student's tuition, marketing Director Loren Cribbs said.

Beyond partnerships with regional companies, school leaders will offer classes in some nontraditional settings, he said.

Students will attend classes in Manchester Craftsmen's Guild and the Carnegie Science Center in the North Side, and at the Energy Innovation Center in the Hill District.

The school is supported by, but independent of, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh, Zangaro said.

“My heart is filled with joy to see your dream become a reality in the establishment of the Holy Family Academy,” Bishop David Zubik wrote in a letter to school leaders. “The Holy Family Academy complements the other Catholic high schools in our diocese” and will be a “welcome addition to the traditions of academic excellence and faith formation our diocese has long enjoyed.”

Zangaro, who retired in 2010 as assistant superintendent of Moon Area School District, spent 30 years in public education. He said a school such as Holy Family Academy offers experiences public schools cannot.

School leaders plan to offer extracurricular activities, such as basketball and cross country, and are working on agreements with other high schools should students want to play other sports, he said.

Students from a 10-mile radius of the campus on Route 65 can attend the school, Zangaro said.

“There are some communities that have some great need beyond that. We are certainly interested in those students,” he said, adding that there would need to be a group of students from an outlying district.

Zangaro said Holy Family Academy builds on the institute's other educational offerings that, historically, have focused on foster care and special needs.

Holy Family Institute, founded more than 100 years ago, operates programs for children and families who need extra support.

“Holy Family has a reputation for helping students in crisis, but also helping people,” Zangaro said.

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