JERSEY CITY — Robert E. Reiser, SJ, President of Saint Peter’s Prep in Jersey City, welcomed students back on Wednesday for the first time since Hurricane Sandy dealt a heavy blow to Prep’s downtown Jersey City campus and to the region.
Fr. Reiser, in addressing the student body, congratulated them on their choice to respond in such an upbeat and energetic fashion. “The high attendance of the student body, the professional response of the administration, faculty and staff, and the dedicated support of alumni, parents, and friends, has resulted in Prep getting back to business in record time.”
The mood at Prep has been one of hope and resolve. Prep’s principal, James C. DeAngelo, ’85, told the faculty and staff on Tuesday “it’s a matter of trust in everyone in this room that we can resume the work of our mission and carry on the tradition of Saint Peter’s Prep.” Additionally, when students were surveyed directly after the storm, the overwhelming comment from them was that they wanted to return to Prep as soon as possible. In order to make this happen, Skae Power Solutions, one of the nation’s leading engineering and environmental consulting firms was engaged as the general contractor working in conjunction with Prep’s in-house Facilities team to return the campus to normal.
Since the vast majority of Prep students commute from more than 120 communities throughout New Jersey and New York, including over 150 students from Union County, the compromised regional transportation network presented a challenge to the re-opening of school, but strong attendance for Wednesday’s re-orientation program speaks to the resilience of the Prep community. With constant transportation updates available on Prep’s website, carpooling efforts among students and parents, and a school-sponsored shuttle bus service designed to bridge some of the gaps, students are persevering in making their way back to the place so many view as a second home.
A senior from Dumont, Matthew Connolly, ’13, recounted the harrowing story of a tree crashing through his bedroom and rendering his home uninhabitable. The Connolly family sought refuge with Kathy and John Sylvester, parents of Prep graduates Kevin, ’08 and James, ‘11. Matt said: “in times like these you feel the strength of the Prep community and you understand how unique our high school experience has been. I am blessed to have my family at Prep.”
Maura Toomb, Prep’s Campus Minister, remarked that it was important to begin again with a Mass of remembrance and thanksgiving to “remind us of who we are.” Campus Ministry is sponsoring a hospitality station to help supply students with food and clothing needs. The senior retreat, Emmaus, will occur as planned this weekend, and students are exploring service activities to assist the region in restoration. Canisius High School, a Jesuit school in Buffalo, NY, has raised money to aid both Prep and Xavier High School in New York, and plans to send a contingent of students to partner in service activities in New Jersey. Prep alums by the score stand ready to assist the school in whatever is needed to return to normal.
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