Supporters going for broke to save St. Hubert's High

A crowd of 1,000 rallied outside St. Hubert's in the hope of preventing the Catholic girls' school's closing. One girl proclaimed her desire to be a "future Bambie."
A crowd of 1,000 rallied outside St. Hubert's in the hope of preventing the Catholic girls' school's closing. One girl proclaimed her desire to be a "future Bambie." (ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / Staff Photographer)
Posted: January 14, 2012

Standing 1,000 strong on Torresdale Avenue, the students, alumnae and supporters of St. Hubert Catholic High School for Girls said Friday that they would raise hundreds of thousands of dollars in two weeks for a chance to save their school.

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia announced last week that it would close St. Hubert and three other high schools because of declining enrollment. It also plans to close 45 elementary schools.

Kathryn Ott Lovell, a member of the alumnae association advisory board, said the association had been under the impression it had to hand over a cash deposit of $1.2 million before the archdiocese would hear an appeal of its decision to close the 70-year-old institution, which the archdiocese later denied.

"We are thrilled that they have provided that clarification," Lovell said later. "But we still need to fund-raise."

Alumnae association officials said the group still hopes to raise $1.2 million to close Hubert's $624,480 deficit and show church officials that the school is viable in the long term.

Current, former and future students, parents, and other boosters stood on the steps of the school, fanned out in front of it, and spilled into the street early Friday. Sign-waving girls led the crowd in the St. Hubert's school song; a few women walked through the crowd handing out chocolate chip cookies.

A cheer went up when Lovell announced that the family of one graduate had pledged $100,000 and alumnae association president Louise Winski had donated $10,000, challenging others to match her gift.

"This is not a dying school," said Lovell, a member of the Class of 1992.

After the rally broke up and students headed back inside, alumnae milled around on the sidewalk, hugging and vowing to fight.

Marianne Burpulis, a member of the Class of 1967 and since 1974 a foreign-language teacher at St. Hubert's, hugged Winski and wiped tears from her eyes as people handed Winski cash, checks, and notes promising donations.

"This place is my heart, my second home," said Burpulis, who held a stuffed Bambie, the school's mascot. "It means everything in the world to me. These girls are a gift, and they're why I get up every morning."

Kasey Moore, a member of the Class of 2010, now studies secondary education at Holy Family University.

"I want to teach here," said Moore, 20. "All these girls are my sisters."

Moore and her friend Jacqueline Bellamy, 19, wore reindeer headbands covered with yellow felt and festooned with colored flowers and a sparkly gold cross. St. Hubert's is a tradition, a treasured second home, they said.

The fund-raising goal - $1.2 million in two weeks - is daunting. But even though they're college students, Moore and Bellamy said they were donating.

"I already said that I was going to give up my trip to London this May to give the money to Hubert's," Moore said. "It's worth it."

The alumnae group has set up a website, www.savehuberts.com, to take donations and "Bambie Stories."

"The administration, faculty and student body are a vibrant, holy, and peaceful presence in this community," Sister Alice Gleason, a 1949 graduate, wrote on the site. "Please, save our school."

About 675 girls currently attend St. Hubert's. The archdiocese says enrollment is down 55 percent in the last 15 years, the largest percentage drop of any archdiocesan high school.

But don't underestimate St. Hubert's, supporters say.

"We know the strength, courage, and resiliency of the Bambie spirit," Lovell said.

In addition to St. Hubert's, St. Laurentius in Fishtown and St. John the Baptist in Bucks County have said they will appeal their planned closures.

Supporters of another targeted school - St. George's in Port Richmond - took their cause to the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter & Paul later Friday, where dozens of students and parents held a sidewalk march. They said the archdiocese must rethink its decision to close the school, which is to merge with Our Lady of Port Richmond, a nearby regional school.

"People call us a small school, but we think we're a perfect size," said Megan Moore, a seventh grader. "We're a big family."

Though the archdiocese says the school is running a $38,569 deficit, St. George supporters say it is self-sustaining and viable.


Contact staff writer Kristen Graham at 215-854-5146 or kgraham@phillynews.com, or on Twitter @newskag. Read her blog, "Philly School Files," at www.philly.com/schoolfiles

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