JSerra CEO: ‘This Will Be Our Best Year Yet’

The following column was published in the current edition of the Capistrano Dispatch.

By Frank Talarico

Last year was big for JSerra Catholic High School.

Frank Talarico
Frank Talarico

We won our first Trinity League sports championships, graduated our largest senior class (including our first National Merit Scholarship winner) and contributed to the community in hundreds of notable ways.

All our accomplishments last year beg the question: Can we top them this year?

Yes, we can.

I predict JSerra’s seventh year will be its best yet.

More than 200 seniors wearing freshly pressed uniforms walked through the halls of our $110-million campus on Sept. 1 – the first day of school. This is our biggest – and most talented – senior class yet.

Our student retention rate is also breaking JSerra records. It’s at 85% and climbing.

Here’s another telling statistic: During the worst recession since the Great Depression, we have maintained enrollment and may even grow enrollment for the year.

What do the numbers tell us?

They illustrate the tremendous value of a JSerra education. Families continue to invest in a JSerra education knowing it will prepare their children for a successful college career and to be contributing members of our society.

The value is especially evident now – as, sadly, neighboring public schools cut teachers, increase class sizes and eliminate important science, arts and extra-curricular programs because of harsh budgeting responsibilities.

At JSerra, we will continue to provide students the same high caliber educational excellence we always have. We are blessed with world-class instructors like Dr. Jan Kilduff, a former NASA consultant, who teaches Chemistry.

The good news extends beyond our classrooms and onto our renowned athletic fields.

Our boys’ soccer, boys’ lacrosse and baseball teams are gearing up to defend their titles. Our soccer team already showed its promise for the coming year, winning the Capo Valley summer league. The Orange County Register said goal-scoring juniors Juan Gutierrez and Dylan Seedman “have quite possibly developed into the most dangerous duo” in Orange County soccer.

Other sports programs are poised to join them in competing for titles.

One of our most exciting new additions over the summer was our hiring of Julie Swail-Ertel. A rare two-sport U.S. Olympian, Swail-Ertel directs our aquatics program and will coach girls’ water polo. Swail-Ertel led the U.S. water polo team to a silver medal in Sydney in 2000 – and competed in the triathlon in Beijing last year. Now, she’ll share her world-class knowledge and experience with all of our students.

And, of course, there’s the great family and community tradition of high school football. We invite the community to join us in enjoying a football game or rooting for other Lions sports teams.

To view our athletic teams’ schedules, I encourage you to visit our significantly enhanced website at http://www.jserra.org. It’s also a great place to find the latest campus news. Visit frequently because we’ll be updating the site regularly.

What else is new?

JSerra is launching its international student program, and will welcome students from as far away as South Korea to our community. The program introduces students from other countries and cultures to JSerra students while giving foreign students valuable experience in the U.S.

We’re looking for host families. Each family receives a stipend for housing the students for 11 months. If you’re interested, call us at 949-493-9307 ext. 1015.

And, finally, our new community relations committee began its important work of brainstorming new ways to raise the bar on our community contributions. I’m happy to inform you that we have several well-known community leaders working with us to help JSerra be an even better neighbor. I plan to report back when the ideas turn to implementation.

As you can see, the 2009-2010 school year is already shaping up to be a memorable one.

I hope to see you on campus soon – and can’t wait to share news of our progress.