BRIARCLIFF MANOR, N.Y. – High school students Julia Solari and Tara Hammonds are hoping to send a clear message to the Archdiocese of New York as they band together to occupy Briarcliff Manor’s St. Theresa School this weekend.
The teens are hosting activities, music, movies, dancing and prayer beginning at 7 p.m. Friday at the Catholic elementary school with the goal of uniting the community and showing support for the school after the archdiocese recently announced it as “at-risk” of closing in 2013.
St. Theresa School teaches students from prekindergarten through eighth grade who reside in Briarcliff Manor and surrounding school districts. It employs more than 20 teachers and staff.
As a part of “Occupy St. Theresa,” Solari and Hammonds, both high school students and alumni of St. Theresa, will sleep over at the school, in between hosting more than a dozen family events. Solari, a 16-year-old junior at Ossining High School, said it was important that she show support of her alma mater.
“We want to unite the community and show all of the parishioners how close the kids are and how much we love the school,” Solari said Thursday. “When you go to St. Theresa, you feel like you’re a part of a family. The archdiocese might want to shut us down, but I don’t think they realize how close we are and how much this school means to us.”
Solari later noted that all of the weekend events are free, but donations will be accepted during a Saturday morning bake sale at the school. The proceeds from the sale, and several others the girls previously hosted, will go to help keep the school open.
“Hopefully, with all of us sleeping over, it will really show that we’re willing to take a stand and show everyone how much we care about our school,” Solari said. “We’re not raising donations outside of the bake sale because there is a committee doing that, and they’re doing a great job of it. We wanted to show them how much this means to us as well.”
Nicole Hallinan, a St. Theresa parent and head of the Home School Association, said she had to become involved when she heard what Solari and Hammonds were doing.
“It’s very inspirational to all of us what the girls and other kids in this community are doing,” Hallinan said. “To be in this situation and have some of our most recent alums, and the things they’re doing for us, is inspirational at a very emotional and difficult time.”
Hallinan said the initial announcement in November that the school might close was “devastating” to many members of the community.
“We were shocked, we really were,” she said. “The people this is going to affect the most are the parents and the kids who go to the school, and it’s going to be very difficult if it closes. But it’s a tremendous inspiration to know that we have young adults who are making this statement about how much it means to them, too.”