Parents celebrate Catholic education

Alumni often choose to send their own children to the elementary school.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Chrissy Blasko started her formal education in a Catholic elementary school and then switched to a public school.
She soon switched back to a Catholic elementary, attending St. Christine's on South Schenley Avenue in seventh and eighth grade before moving on to graduate from Cardinal Mooney High School.
"It just wasn't a family-type atmosphere," Blasko said of her time in a public school. "There was definitely a difference."
When it came time to send her own children to school, the Lucerne Lane, Boardman, resident said she and her husband, Dave (also a product of a Catholic education) opted to send them to St. Christine.
Family affair
"We felt they needed the get their feet grounded in a Catholic school, especially in the elementary years," she said, adding that she believes that the religious aspect and the whole moral tone found at St. Christine's is important in her children's education.
Daughter Samantha is in third grade while son Nicholas is in first grade.
Blasko was one of a number of St. Christine alumni-parents attending a special Mass at the school complex Tuesday marking the school's 50th anniversary.
"We think the benefits are immense," said Ed Reese of Rosario Place, Canfield, another alumnus-parent.
Reese, a former Mahoning County commissioner, graduated from St. Christine in 1973 and recalled that his father believed very strongly in a Catholic education.
Parents sacrifice to send their children to a Catholic school, but the results are worth it, he said.
Reese said he and his wife, Diane, didn't hesitate to send their children to St. Christine, based on his experiences at the school. Some of the friends he made in grade school remain his best friends today, he said.
His sister, Mary Ann Huzicka, has been a teacher at the school for more than 20 years.
The Reeses have three children at St. Christine: Eddie in eighth grade; Danny in seventh; and McKenzie in third.
Jennifer Ozenghar, of Dogwood Drive, also has three children enrolled in the school, and she's a graduate herself.
"My father believed in the principles of Catholic education, putting God first in your life," she said. "He said it would steer you in the right direction."
She and her husband, Art, decided their children should come to St. Christine too.
"Most importantly, there's a sense of warmth, a sense of family," she said of the school. The teachers seem to be very in tune with the emotional state of the children, she added.
"I like that it's small, more intimate," Ozenghar said.
The Ozenghars have Corynn in sixth grade, Brie in fifth and Makenna in third.
St. Christine, like numerous Catholic schools here and across the country, has experienced a significant decline in enrollment over the years, having reached more than 1,600 pupils at one time.
Enrollment has remained steady for the last several years, and St. Christine even added a few pupils this fall to reach 445, said Doreen DeMarco, school principal.
The school has been fortunate, and its future looks bright, she said, explaining that its location makes it a very good draw for pupils from Youngstown, Boardman, Canfield and Poland.
Getting pupils from such a wide area "really creates a nice diversity here," DeMarco said.

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