Written by: John Nee
On Friday, August 18th the St. Rita community officially welcomed the Class of 2021 for freshmen orientation day. This year the administration decided to try something new and include an overnight for all freshmen students giving them an opportunity to begin forging relationships that will last a lifetime.
The freshmen reported on Friday in the morning, and after hearing from several administrators and student government members, they experienced a simulated school day to acclimate them to their teachers and location of their classes. Then, after eating lunch together, Campus Ministry and the St. Rita Big Brothers took the freshman Mustangs through some team-building exercises.
After serving dinner to the 150+ freshman, the highlight of the night was a mass in the St. Rita Shrine Chapel with both the students as well as their parents. This was the first time the newest St. Rita families had the opportunity to experience St. Rita spirituality at its best. Separate “welcome” parties followed for the parents and students. The parents were treated to some hor d’oeuvres and beverages in the dining hall as they met fellow freshmen parents, in many cases for the first time, while the students were treated to a bonfire in the large courtyard.
At the conclusion of the “welcome” parties, parents went on their way as the students prepared to stay the night with their fellow classmates on the St. Rita campus. Beginning at 10pm, students were given the choice to participate in various games around the campus, watch a movie in the auditorium or just play basketball in the gym. At midnight, classrooms were opened for students who wanted to get some sleep while most chose to continue the fun in the gym and McCarthy Center all night long. In the morning the freshmen were treated to a good breakfast courtesy of the St. Rita Father’s Club in the Dining Hall, and finally at 7:30 a.m. the first leg of the freshman experience was over.
Director of Student Life and Campus Ministry, Josh Blaszak ’02 said, “The Freshman Overnight Augustinian Experience was a new endeavor for St. Rita and the outcome was more than we could have imagined. Seeing the boys interact throughout the day and the evening was amazing. Bonds are already being made and the Class of 2021 is quickly becoming part of the St. Rita Brotherhood. I cannot wait to see the great things that these young men bring to the St. Rita Family.”
Then, on Wednesday, August 23rd, the freshman orientation concluded with the official welcome from the St. Rita community at the Inaugural Academic Convocation. St. Rita Head of Schoo,l Fr. Paul Galetto, O.S.A., President, Mr. Mike Zunica and Principal Mr. Brendan Conroy each spoke about the mission of St. Rita High School, its history and the brotherhood of Ritamen. The convocation concluded with freshman signing the Book of Brotherhood as the senior student government presented each with their official Class of 2021 school tie.
Fr. Paul remarked, "What a great experience it was for the freshman. It was so good to see the bonding of brothers take place right before our eyes. Both the administration, teachers and students who participated were on top of their game. This was a great success and helps explain why St. Rita is a cut above. This Brotherhood is alive and strong."
Early returns on the Augustinian Experience and freshman overnight were all positive from the freshman class as well. The success of the whole freshman orientation experience means that it will become a tradition that all future Rita Men can look forward to experiencing; a chance for them to begin making memories that will last for a lifetime! St. Rita President, Mike Zunica, added, “Seeing the excitement in the eyes of our new additions to the St. Rita family is inspiring year in and year out. I have no doubts that the Class of 2021 will leave St. Rita better than they found it!”