Bell rings for first time at Frassati Catholic Academy

Aaron Lambert

An air of anticipation and excitement greeted the students and parents who walked through the newly-opened doors of Frassati Catholic Academy for the first day of school Aug. 21.

The school, which adheres to the classical model of education in its curriculum, marked the first new school opening for the Archdiocese of Denver since Our Lady of Loreto Catholic School in 2012.

Located at 133rd Avenue and Colorado Boulevard in Thornton, the buzz surrounding the new school has been potent since it was announced nearly a year ago, and as of the first day, 170 students in grades pre-kindergarten through sixth were enrolled, with more applications rolling in.

Frassati Catholic Academy principal Sara Alkayali greets a student as her mom drops her off for the first day of school. (Photo by Jason Weinrich | Denver Catholic)

Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila dedicated and blessed the school building, a vacant charter school that was purchased by the archdiocese last year. As the school day began, students, parents and teachers gathered in the “chapel-teria” for morning prayer, led by school principal Sara Alkayali.

“This has been so long in the making, and it has finally come to fruition,” Alkayali said. “Not only that, we’ve had so many moments where we can tell the Holy Spirit [has been] guiding us.”

Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila dedicated and blessed the new school building. He explained to the students of Frassati that their school is different because it is a Catholic school, and encouraged each of them to grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ. (Photo by Jason Weinrich | Denver Catholic)

The school was named for Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati by Archbishop Aquila because of the great example he is to young people. It is the first regional school in the archdiocese, seeking to serve those families that do not a have a school attached to their parish, and fills a need for a Catholic school in the northern suburbs of Denver – an area that is booming with growth and home to an already-strong Catholic presence.

Kindergarten teacher Daniele Buckley reads her students a story on the first day of class. The classical curriculum at Frassati Catholic Academy emphasizes the arts as a means of educating students. (Photo by Jason Weinrich | Denver Catholic)

“We are given this amazing opportunity to be surrounded by a strong community of Catholic families and staff that value faith in education,” said Mica Brougham, who has two of her four children, Chase and Cecilia, enrolled at Frassati. “In particular, we were drawn to Frassati because of the classical curriculum it offered, which focuses on the transcendent values of truth, goodness, and beauty.”

Frassati Catholic Academy seeks to instill academic excellence in its students through the classical model of education, which relies on three primary pillars: grammar, logic and rhetoric. The study of Latin, art and music is also a crucial piece of the classical tradition. The archdiocese sought to open another classical school after Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic School implemented the classical model in 2011 and experienced a drastic increase in student enrollment.

Alongside the classical curriculum, what truly separates Frassati Catholic Academy from other K-8 schools in the area is its Catholic identity. Local priests will say a weekly Mass at the school, while prayer and religious formation serve as the foundation for the curriculum.

Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila and 6th grade students at Frassati Catholic Academy practice viewing the solar eclipse through special solar-viewing glasses on the first day of the brand new school Aug. 21. Archbishop Aquila blessed and dedicated the school, which is the first new school to open in the Archdiocese of Denver since 2012. (Photo by Andrew Wright | Denver Catholic)

Archbishop Aquila explained to the students what makes Frassati a different and special kind of school during the blessing and dedication of the building.

“We’re able to talk about God and help each one of you come to know and love Jesus,” he said. “If we open our hearts to him, Jesus helps us to become the best person we can possibly become. He desires for each one of us to be with him forever in Heaven. Each one of you has been created for Heaven.”

Frassati by the numbers

Total number of students on the first day of school: 166

Grades served on first day of school: Preschool 3-year-olds through 6th grade

Total number of solar eclipse glasses distributed and used by parents, students, teachers, administrators, a priest, and an Archbishop: 200

Number of prayers said as a Frassati community on the first day of school: too numerous to count!

Featured image by Andrew Wright | Denver Catholic

COMING UP: Blessed Frassati to serve as patron of new school

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A new Catholic school featuring Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati in its namesake is coming to the Archdiocese of Denver.

Frassati Catholic Academy is a new Catholic school in Thornton slated to open in Fall 2017. Named after Blessed Frassati himself, Frassati Academy will be firmly Catholic in its approach to education and provide the highest-caliber educational experience to its students. The school will adhere to the classical model of education, which has time and time again proven to be extremely beneficial and effective in terms of academic success.

“Frassati Catholic Academy, with its classical approach to education, is a wonderful addition to our 35 existing Catholic elementary schools,” said Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila. “Given the growing Catholic population around Thornton, we desire to offer a new opportunity to help form your children both spiritually and academically.”

Frassati Academy is located in Thornton at 133rd Avenue and Colorado Boulevard, a location that is bursting with growth and is home to a large Catholic presence. The location was determined to be appropriate after studying population and demographic data.

The purchase of Frassati Catholic Academy was announced at Masses in the surrounding parishes over the weekend. It is the first new archdiocesan school to open since Our Lady of Loreto in 2012, and is also the first regional school in the archdiocese, which seeks to serve those students in the area who do not have a school attached their parish.

The building itself, which was formerly a charter school, is in “tip-top shape,” said Kevin Kijewski, Superintendent of Denver Catholic Schools. The building was constructed in 2003 with an addition made in 2008, and it remains in gre¬at condition.

“Part of our new vision for Catholic schools in the archdiocese is to offer new academic configurations and specialties that are appealing to parents,” Kijewski said. “Frassati Academy helps to fulfill a need and desire in the northern Denver suburbs.”

‘Man of the Eight Beatitudes’

Archbishop Aquila named the school himself, saying that Blessed Frassati is an excellent role model for young people.

“Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati serves as a great example for young people today, especially here on the Front Range,” Archbishop Aquila said. “He is known as the man of the beatitudes, a title which speaks to living out the faith with authentic joy. We believe he is an excellent patron for this new school.”

Born April 6, 1901, in Turin, Italy, Blessed Frassati was an astute student and a fierce defender of the Catholic faith. At the age of 17, he began studying to become a mining engineer to “serve Christ better among the miners,” he once told a friend, and devoted much his spare time to serving the sick, needy, orphans and World War I veterans. In 1919, he became involved in political and social activist groups that promoted Catholic social teaching, and played a crucial role in the first convention of Pax Romana, an organization that called for unification among Catholic students throughout the world for the purpose of working together for universal peace.

At times, Blessed Frassati was known for physically defending the faith, getting into the occasional scuffle with anticlerical Communists and Fascists. Even so, his heart was in the right place. He stood for social justice and took every opportunity he got to lead others to Holy Mass, to read Scripture, and to pray the rosary.

Blessed Frassati contracted poliomyelitis at age 24, and died on July 4, 1925. At his funeral, the streets were filled with the poor and suffering whom he served during his life, a show of overwhelming support for a man Pope John Paul II dubbed “Man of the Eight Beatitudes” in 1977 while attending an exhibit about Blessed Frassati’s life. Of him, the Holy Father said, “Behold the man of the eight beatitudes who bears in himself the grace of the Gospel, the Good News, the joy of salvation offered to us by Christ…” On May 20, 1990, Pope John Paul II beatified Pier Giorgio Frassati.

The classical model

The classical model of education, as its name suggests, dates back to as early as the 6th century. It strives to lead students to discover knowledge and truth that is ordered, coherent, integrated and is rooted in the wisdom of the past, particularly in Western civilization such as Greece and Rome.

The three primary pillars of classical education, sometimes called the trivium, are grammar, logic and rhetoric. Furthermore, the study of Latin, art and music is integral to classical education. In the early grades, exploration and memorization are encouraged, and as students progress to higher grades, they transition from memorizing to engaging in learning activities that stress synthesizing ideas across academic subjects.

The Office of Catholic Schools has been consulting with the Institute for Catholic Liberal Education in the implementation of the classical model at Frassati Academy. The institute, headed by Andrew Seeley, Ph.D., works to promote the best and deepest kinds of Catholic education in Catholic schools and colleges, a big part of which is the classical model of education.

“If you read through the Holy See’s teachings on Catholic schools, there are five benchmarks for what Catholic schools should look like, and I think Catholic classical education meets those benchmarks in abundant and wonderful ways,” Seeley said. “Classical education prepares students for 21st century leadership. One of the key components is trying to teach students how to learn anything that they need to know, and because we teach them to learn and inspire in them a desire to learn, they’re going to be very effective at adapting to situations that change all the time.”

Coupling a classical education with a Catholic foundation has proven to be extremely successful, and one local school has exemplified this. Our Lady of Lourdes school in Denver was one of three schools featured in a recent article published by the Catholic World Report highlighting two key elements that appear to increase enrollment in Catholic schools: “embracing and proclaiming a Catholic identity, and switching to a classical curriculum.” In the midst of dropping attendance, Our Lady of Lourdes Principal Rosemary Anderson switched the school to a classical model of education beginning in 2011, and since then, their enrollment has increased drastically, jumping from 90 students in 2011 to 175 as of January 2016.

Proudly Catholic

As a Catholic school in the classical tradition, Mass and prayer will serve as the foundation of Frassati Academy’s curriculum. Religious formation will be fostered among the students with a weekly Mass in addition to support by parish priests from around the local area.

Priests will also play a crucial role in the operations of the school. Frassati Academy will be governed by a board that includes local pastors of the region, who will ensure the school remains on mission.

“This regional governance will include pastors from parishes in the local area,” said Father Randy Dollins, vicar general for the Archdiocese of Denver. “While the archdiocese will own the school, the pastors will help to ensure effective leadership and finances for many years to come.”

Denise Campbell is the newly-hired director of curriculum and instruction for the Office of Catholic Schools, but she is also overseeing Frassati Academy as its interim director.

“Frassati Academy will offer the highest quality Catholic education possible,” Campbell said. “I am very excited to be a part of this growth and innovation in the Archdiocese of Denver.”

Registration for Frassati Academy opens during Catholic Schools Week, which begins January 30, 2017.

Visit gofrassati.org to sign up for email updates.