“Dan realized how the “Christ-first” message he had heard from the staff and read on the website was not just talking. This young man was the young adult Dan wanted his children to become.”

By Dan and Julie Melchior, parents of 2017, 2020 and 2023 SJA graduates.

After 9 years in Charlotte, North Carolina, we moved back to Kansas City when our oldest was going into 7th grade. Charlotte was much the same size as Kansas City, but it had only one Catholic high school at the time. Our daughter was a bit overwhelmed with the number of schools and selection in KC, coming from an area where most students from the lone Catholic junior high school fed into one high school. To allow plenty of time for the selection process, we started our “high school shopping” right away.

We created the “perfect” high school shopping checklist and set out to find a partner to help form and educate our children. Before we even moved to KC, we had contacted several of the area Catholic high schools. We were familiar with many of the schools, but St. James had been built while we were in Charlotte. We asked about tuition and fees, enrollment trends, SAT/ACT test scores, college scholarship numbers, feeder junior high schools, where graduates were attending college, and so forth. Both of us have project management and analytics backgrounds, and we have a 3” binder full of Parish and school research to show for it!

For many reasons, we selected a home in Lenexa and chose Holy Trinity as our new parish and grade school for our family. We attended the high school open houses, the junior high nights and shadow days, as well as the parent events. Being the “new family,” we asked lots of questions and spoke with students, teachers, parents, alums, and grandparents to get input on all the area schools.

Initially, we were focused on schools we were more familiar with from living in Kansas City previously: ones that had tradition, established curriculum and staff, solid alumni base and development funds, proven test scores, and a track record with college admissions offices. Many of our Southern friends were promoting the benefits of same-sex schools, so the Missouri schools were also on our list. Kansas City sure has lots of choices! If you’ve lived anywhere else, you know that we have incredible education options, both public and private, at all grade levels.

Then, it happened. The first time Dan toured St. James, he was blown away. First, by the introduction being held in the chapel; and second, by the way, the Senior student spoke so genuinely of how St. James had helped him grow as a young man and had guided him to a deeper relationship with God. Dan realized how the “Christ-first” message he had heard from the staff and read on the website was not just talking. This young man was the young adult Dan wanted his children to become. By the time the young man finished, Dan was tearing up.

I’m not sure we can really put our fingers on it, but as we all spent more time at SJA, it just felt like “home” for our entire family. Our daughter said right off she felt she could be herself at St. James. We selected St. James as the environment where our kids, and our family, would learn and grow in faith together. Now in our 6th year with a student at St. James, we continue to see the administration, staff, and teachers at St. James infusing their Mission in all they do, consistently and intentionally. As parents, we value this the most.

While we had the “perfect” high school shopping checklist, not everything can go on a list. We had found our partner.

There is a theme that guides each school year at St. James. The theme when our daughter was a Senior was “This is Home.” When we moved her to college, we gave her a gift which we felt was representative of her time at St. James and captured the Mission as they send forth all graduates. It was a small sketch of the tabernacle. The chapel is physically located at the center of the school property, and the tabernacle is visible from the academic wings.

We wrote to her on the back of the frame “…wherever you go, keep Christ at the center and you will always be home.” From Dan tearing up in the chapel on a school tour, to giving our daughter a picture of the tabernacle as she moved away, we came full circle, finishing where we started. We pray that the Mission of St. James continues to guide her and everyone in the St. James community.

So, take a good look around and keep your hearts open as you find your high school “home.” Spend as much time as you can in various settings and discover the school culture that aligns with your family’s values. The Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas has fantastic high schools supporting their mission of growing disciples of Jesus. We are grateful for the Archdiocesan schools and pray for the continued success of all Catholic schools. Thank you for considering Catholic education for your children.

Mission: St. James Academy exists to pass on the Catholic faith to the next generation. The community is rooted in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church and is dedicated to developing the minds and hearts of young people to know Truth, choose Good and live virtuously in the service of others.

By Dan and Julie Melchior, parents of 2017, 2020 and 2023 SJA graduates.

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