Northern Colorado’s Chesterton Academy to offer free tuition this fall

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The Chesterton Academy of John Paul II in Windsor announced that, as a result of great generosity from anonymous donors, tuition for the 2020 – 2021 school year will be completely free for all high school students who enroll in its inaugural year, set to begin next month.

The school assured that this opportunity will not affect the founding family scholarship, which will lock in a low tuition range for any student who is enrolled in the opening year of the school and for any siblings who attend the high school in the future.

“I would label it as unreal, except for the fact that it is. Ultimately, this entire process has had a clear mark of divine intervention from its inception to every stage of the way… What can you say in this instance except that God is good?” said Blaise Hockel, Headmaster of the Chesterton Academy of John Paul II. “I think that what [we] want people to know has been made evident by these anonymous donors’ gift to us: that Catholic education has been so desperately waited in northern Colorado, that we are here to stay, and we have the community’s full support… People see the inherent value of what we have to offer.”

The Catholic high school currently has 20 students enrolled for its 2020-2021 academic school year and only has room for 25 to 30 students total, but Hockel assures the school is trying to find creative ways to let as many people as possible benefit from this opportunity.

Prior to this generous donation, many families had contacted the school leadership expressing their concern because of financial impacts due to the coronavirus pandemic. The school was working arduously to launch a campaign that could alleviate the stress of these families when a group of anonymous donors came forward through a board member with a letter specifying what they intended to do. They only requested, in exchange for their donation, that the school make its tuition completely free for its students during the first year, while keeping its founding family scholarship.

According to an announcement published by the Chesterton Academy of John Paul II, the donors explained what inspired them to such generosity:

“Why? Our goal on this Earth is to get to Heaven and to help as many other as we can get there as well. We have such confidence in the Faith and Ideals which will be instilled in the next generation of Leaders at the Chesterton Academy of John Paul II that this sacrifice today will bear much fruit in the years and generations to come.”

For Hockel, who was recently hired as the school’ first headmaster, the sentiment of this kind of charity is a source of further motivation for the school and its members, but he said that it also ought to be for all Catholics, who are called to serve for the good of the Church and society.

“We’re in a time of grave uncertainty, and many of us are confused and afraid. But when we see this kind of action, what should the response be on our end? I think that the response should be to reciprocate it and to do it ourselves. To find as many means of giving of the time, talent and treasure that we have,” Hockel concluded. “And that’s what we’re trying to do at the school – in the kind of education that we’re offering to the students, steeped in the teachings of the Church and an attempt to call students to be saints, but also in the way we’re bringing this forward for any family who wants to come.

“If a family wants to come, they just need to reach out to me and talk to me. We will find the means to make it happen because this is the goodness of God, and it should not be squandered.”

For more details and to contact the school about registration, visit chestertonjpii.org.

COMING UP: Colorado’s Chesterton Academies are set to kick off the Fall semester

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While the current situation has challenged schools to find creative ways to teach and engage their students, the two Colorado Chesterton Academy high schools have found themselves in a unique position. The pandemic arrived just as Our Lady of Victory was enjoying its second semester and St. John Paul II in Windsor was just a few months away from its inaugural class. Nonetheless, both are set to begin or resume in-school learning in the Fall and are working harder than ever to fulfill the mission of the schools.

A dream come true

The long-awaited Catholic high school in the Fort Collins area has hired its first headmaster, Blaise Hockel, and faculty to begin the school year in August.

“Our main priority was to get a headmaster. We felt people were still in in doubt about the start of the school – since this has been in the works for a very long time – but I think that’s going to start to change now that we have a headmaster and a faculty,” said David Whitworth, Interim Executive Director of the Chesterton Academy of St. John Paul II. “The hiring committee found Blaise, and we fell in love with him. He came with great recommendations and has done a great job at advancing the hiring process for the faculty as soon as he was hired.”

Hockel, who has a Master’s degree in Education with an emphasis in Curriculum and Instruction and significant experience in classical education, will be the “spiritual and intellectual head of the school,” aided by his deep faith and love for classical education.

“This school is the fulfillment of the promise long awaited by the community, and my hope and goal is to fulfill that promise in every way, to make it something which genuinely is the center of Catholic culture and Catholic education for the persons of northern Colorado, so that we can see a spiritual boon and a great development in our love of Christ,” Hockel said.

Blaise Hockel was recently named as the Chesterton Academy of St. John Paul II’s first headmaster. (Photo provided)

The school, beginning with grades 9 and 10, has a plan for an integrated curriculum in which the incoming sophomore class will have the opportunity to receive all the components of a full education of the classical model in three years. This approach will help them secure a strong foundation in the humanities and prepare them well for their senior year and college.

“I think it’s important for people to know that this isn’t something that is simply being thrown together; it’s being very intentionally and considerably put together,” Hockel assured. “This will allow [incoming sophomores] to receive the same caliber of education, but … suited to their individual needs.”

The new faculty and staff includes Steven Lewis, who will be teaching humanities and has a background in missionary work and media evangelization, besides his training in philosophy, theology and music; Colette Ohotnicky, who will teach math, science and Latin, and has Master of Arts in Environmental Arts and Humanities; and Elizabeth Yeh, with a strong professional background, will serve as the new Executive Director.

Furthermore, the high school will be offering a deal to inaugural families: tuition for their students and any other siblings that enroll in the future will be kept at $6,000 to honor their role as a founding family.

“The first thing that the community should know is that we are an extremely dedicated group of people. The board that is working with my school is easily the most engaged and most supportive board that I have ever seen,” Hockel said. “They are going beyond any normal expectation for someone in their position, and they are all extremely well-thought, well-spoken and intelligent individuals who are working toward the longevity and fulfillment of the school’s mission.”

A fruitful year

Further to the south, the Chesterton Academy of Our Lady of Victory successfully finalized its inaugural year at the St. Louis Parish in Englewood with a class of 15 students.

For Garrett Cichowitz, Lead Teacher and Program manager of the school, the authentic relationships that the students formed were a fruitful result of the first year.

“Our students are very close, and I think that has to do not only with the classroom, with getting to be together for seven hours a day, but also with getting to be a part so many unique events that we have throughout the year,” he said.

While public activities were cancelled due to the pandemic, the students were still able to enjoy the Cultura Vitae community events to cultivate a culture of life; small concerts, in which the students shared their musical talents; weekly formation events through the fine arts, speakers and activities, such as seeing the Monet exhibition at the Denver Art Museum and going to the Colorado Symphony; prayer in front of Planned Parenthood; and making a small pilgrimage in partnership with Creatio.

“All of this is a big piece of what we mean when we talk about wanting to be an authentically Catholic school,” Cichowitz said.

Another aspect that Cichowitz believes sets a Catholic education apart is the goal to make saints and help students grow in virtue and holiness, which he has certainly witnessed during the first school year.

“We saw real growth in [this aspect]… in the sense that, as the students were put in situations where more was demanded of them and they were held accountable, they responded to the invitations of grace from our faculty and from God; they chose to be vulnerable; they chose relationship and to take ownership of their experience,” he said. “My hope is to continue to build on that, that we come into this next year stronger, continuing to grow the level of professionalism and excellence that we’re able to offer, but most importantly that we’re continuing to cultivate an authentic Catholic culture.”

The faculty at Our Lady of Victory is formed by Christina Praetzel, math and science teacher; Justin Jensen, fine arts teacher; Patrick O’Brien, Latin teacher; and Dr. Michael Kilcoyne, music director; all of whom have contributed greatly to the mission of the school during this first year. They will be joined by Alex Crane, the school’s new theology and history teacher.

“[High school] is a time when young people begin asking the questions ‘Who am I?’ and ‘Who do I want to be?’ And it’s a time where they start to take ownership of their identity and their faith. I think the family is foundational to that,” Cichowitz said. “It begins with mom and dad, and our school exists to support that the parents are the first educators. We are here to provide an environment where students are going to be surrounded by like-minded families who value the same things… That provides an invaluable catalyst for what parents are trying to accomplish in the home.”