As I approach six months on 84th Street, I continue to learn a great deal about this special place. Beyond learning names, I am learning about the dedication of our outstanding faculty, about the commitment of our students who gather here each day hailing from 247 different zip codes, about their families who support them in these tireless efforts, and as I spend some time traveling around the country I learn more and more about the alumni whose lives have been touched by Regis.
It is not at all unusual for an alumnus to tell me how Regis changed his life, actually the opposite is true—it is unusual for alumnus NOT to tell me that Regis changed his life. It doesn’t matter if the alumnus grew up on Staten Island, in Brooklyn, in Westchester, or on the Upper East Side, the stories are so often the same. Perhaps one or both of his parents were immigrants, perhaps English was not even spoken at home, perhaps he spent almost two hours traveling to Regis every day. Perhaps Regis opened his eyes to what was possible for him to accomplish in college and beyond, and perhaps his friends at Regis remain his best friends to this day. Perhaps many of these resonate with your own story.
And it is likely that my successor decades from now will hear similar stories from the graduates of today. Today’s students are remarkably similar to those of the past, with the exception of possessing significant digital abilities. 46% of today’s students have one or both parents who were born outside the U.S. 34% of our students come from homes where a language other than English is spoken. The average travel time to school still exceeds 65 minutes each way. 38% of our students identify themselves as something other than white. Actually, that high percentage is something different from earlier in our history, and it reflects a changing immigrant population in our City and country.
In many different ways things have not changed at Regis High School, and that is wonderful. The Foundress would be proud of our ability to remain true to our mission, now into our second century.
Other things have changed, or need to change.
Our faculty is involved in an extensive curriculum review to see if what we teach and how we teach meet the needs of today’s students. No longer just lecturing to students in straight rows of desks, teachers already employ pedagogical methods utilizing small group discussions and interactive group work. While some classrooms have updated furniture that allows for more conducive interaction, most do not. While classrooms have high speed internet and mounted wireless projectors, sometimes they are not directed to the best teaching wall of the classroom. We lack adequate space for the classical instruction of instrumental music, as well as the modern spaces needed for engineering and maker spaces. We need to look at the spaces we use and make modifications for today’s needs.
What has been the greatest privilege of these first six months is coming to a place with a history of changing lives, and stepping into a role that is charged with the responsibility to help perpetuate that history. What promises to be the most fun will be the opportunity to plan with others what Regis can and should do (and should not do) to continue to make a Regis education exceptional and relevant for generations to come.
I look forward to the months and years ahead. Thank you for your support of our mission and our students.
Daniel K. Lahart, SJ