The Episcopal School in North Philadelphia

A light morning rain on Monday, September 10th did not dampen the joy filling the St. James School Dining Room for a favorite school tradition — the annual Opening Doors Ceremony. In fact, every inch of space in the school’s Dining Room was filled with students, staff, special guests and family members.

The 8th Annual Opening Doors Ceremony marked multiple milestones in St. James School history– the inaugural 4th grade class, the largest number of new students receiving their school blazers (35), the greatest range of students and graduates being served by St. James School (grades 4-12).

In his opening remarks, Head of School Dave Kasievich, noted that just as new 4th and 5th grade students joined the St. James School community, 52 St. James graduates began their first days of 9th, 10th, 11th and now 12th grade in high schools across the Philadelphia area. Following an opening prayer by St. James School chaplain, The Rev. Andrew Kellner, Assistant Head of School and Principal Dave McDonough and Dean of Students Fabian Austin introduced the guests serving as blazer ambassadors who would present each new student with their new blazer to welcome them to St. James School.

This year’s blazer ambassadors included dedicated volunteers, neighborhood leaders, donors, high school partners, church partners from all across the Diocese of Pennsylvania, and friends who support St. James School scholarships through tax credit programs. After all the new students had been announced and cheered for, Dave McDonough introduced the new St. James School staff members: Ms. Mandisa John (Associate Director of Graduate Support), Mr. Eric Gardner (4th grade Teacher), Ms. Angel Nalubega (Servant Year Member, Co-Teacher & Pastoral Care Team) and Ms. Beth D’Alessandro (Servant Year Member, Co-Teacher & Pastoral Care Team).

Laurice Simmons Kennel of OperaDelaware performed a beautiful arrangement of “This Little Light of Mine” that led into St. James School Co-Founder, The Rev. Sean Mullen’s, closing reflection. Father Mullen spoke about the transformative powers of St. James School. The educational opportunities and nurturing school environment not only shape the growth of St. James students and graduates from ages 9 to 18 but also transform the lives of every adult — volunteer, parent, staff member — who steps on campus.

After the Dining Room reverberated with the unified voices of students and adults reciting the St. James Student Pledge, The Very Rev. Canon Martini Shaw, Rector of the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas, closed the ceremony with a final blessing. As students were dismissed to their next class, members of the St. James School Parent/Guardian Association lined the hallways to welcome students to their new school year.