HADDONFIELD — On their last first day of elementary school, eighth graders here at Christ the King Regional started the morning by helping their brothers and sisters of the school community.
As cars pulled up in front of the school gym on a breezy Tuesday morning, the elder students greeted parents and relieved their younger schoolmates of heavy crates filled with school supplies. With packs on their backs and lunchbags in hand, as well, the youths walked into the gym together, and the school year began, just as it has for the other primary and secondary Catholic schools in South Jersey.
The 28 Catholic elementary schools in the Diocese of Camden all opened their doors this week. There are also nine Catholic secondary schools in South Jersey, six sponsored by the diocese and three private.
Elena Leahy, Christ the King student president, was one of the eighth graders providing a warm welcome and preparing for her final year at Christ the King.
“I’m sad, but also excited for a lot of fun things coming up, like the Haunted House, Christmas Play and Yearbook,” all activities the eighth graders take charge of, she said.
Her classmate, Joe Semon, began attending Christ the King last year, at the start of seventh grade, after his family moved to the area from North Jersey. He demonstrated to his fellow students what he learned last year from the start.
“Everyone was very welcoming,” he said, adding that he is looking forward to the upcoming basketball tryouts in October.
Students gathered in front of bleachers, separated by grades. For their teachers, new and experienced, the feelings of hope and excitement were mutual.
Anthony McCullough was beginning his first day as religion teacher for fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth graders at Christ the King. “I’m looking to be the best teacher I possibly can,” he said.
In demonstrating and teaching the school’s Catholic identity, he wants students to realize that its beliefs are “something we must live accordingly, as it defines who we are,” he said. “I want to help them foster a good relationship with Jesus.”