The world of 1890 was a far cry from today's global society. It would be another 30 years before women had the right to vote, yet in 1890 the Sisters of the Congregation of St. Joseph in Cleveland founded Saint Joseph Academy, taking the bold step to help young women in northeast Ohio meet the challenges of a new century.
More than 128 years later, the hopes and dreams of Saint Joseph Academy's founders are still alive in the 727 young women at the only all-girls Catholic high school in the city of Cleveland. The Academy provides an environment where students challenge themselves with rigorous Advanced Placement (AP) and honors courses while studying a wide array of topics including engineering, health sciences and the arts.
The original Saint Joseph Academy was located on Starkweather Avenue in the Tremont neighborhood, a community populated by children of a growing middle class in an atmosphere where a boy's education took precedence. The mission of the Academy was to reach the young girls for whom education was often a dream, not a reality.
In 1898, Saint Joseph Academy moved to its current site on Rocky River Drive, then a beautiful parcel of farmland in the relatively undeveloped area of the city on the edge of what would become the Metroparks Rocky River Reservation. Classes were held in the Motherhouse until the stately brick Academy building was completed in 1928.
Saint Joseph Academy continued its mission to empower the young women through the 1920s and beyond. Traditions were created and sustained. In 1943, graduates began a tradition that remains today – “the Walk of the Roses” with white-gowned seniors each carrying a dozen red roses processing down Rocky River Drive from Saint Joseph Academy to Our Lady of Angels Church for commencement. The annual “Paws for Pride” week brings together all grades, creating a spirit-filled environment and memories that last a lifetime.
A great deal of time, energy and finances are invested in ensuring that the campus is a welcoming environment for all who visit and it stays on the forefront of technology. A major addition to the building, The Academy Center opened in December of 1996. The Rawlings Track and Field addition in 2002 allowed the Athletic Department to expand its Athletic programs. Today, Saint Joseph Academy offers 14 varsity sports, including a nationally recognized crew team and a rugby program who are national and seven-time state champions.
In 2009, the school embarked on its largest campaign ever, The Expanding Minds ~ Building Futures ~ Raising Leaders capital campaign raised nearly $7 million to upgrade the infrastructure of the building. Students now enjoy a modern dining hall and stunning outdoors spaces that provide unique areas for classroom studies, companionship and reflection. Additional capital improvements made the building more energy efficient, increased building safety and provided technology upgrades to enrich the education of students.
Saint Joseph Academy's academics continue to expand and fulfill the needs of students who live in a rapidly changing global economy. Each student has her own Chromebook for increased digital learning in and outside the classroom. Students interested in health careers may participate in the Health Sciences Honors Program. Others can choose a curriculum preparing them for a career in engineering. As an International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme candidate school, the curriculum furthers the efforts to develop students into internationally minded citizens, ethical decision makers and critical thinkers.
A constant throughout the school’s history has been the spiritual influence of the founding Sisters of the Congregation of St. Joseph. Their inspiring leadership, compassion and guidance remain alive through the daily presence of Phyllis DiFuccia, a Sister of St. Joseph who serves as the Vice President of Mission. Students take time for reflection in the chapel, selflessly serve their local and global communities and attend annual religious retreats. During these retreats students deepen their faith and explore the dynamic ways they are called to share their gifts with the world. School masses provide young women the opportunity to contribute to the liturgy by singing in the choir, reading the scripture and serving as Eucharistic Ministers.
The history of Saint Joseph Academy extends far beyond the beautiful campus on Rocky River Drive. An impressive network of 17,764 alumnae continue to live out the mission of Saint Joseph Academy. Following the bold path laid out by the Sisters of the Congregation of St. Joseph in 1890, alumnae break barriers by becoming a Pulitzer Prize Winner, Fulbright Scholar, Supreme Court Justice, rocket scientist, artist, neurosurgeon or other careers that fuel their passions.