West Hartford’s Northwest Catholic High School is ready for the start of the 2023-2024 academic year with some new facilities and programs.
By Ronni Newton
When students arrive at Northwest Catholic High School in West Hartford for the new academic year, they will be greeted by some significant upgrades to the facilities, and will also have several new academic opportunities.
“The art studio has been redone,” Fr. Michael Dolan, NWC’s president, said this week. “There are massive flat screen TVs for high tech instruction there,” which in part will allow students to watch the instructor’s hands to learn technique.
Other upgrades include reconstruction of the courtyard area with seasonal plantings.
Many of the most notable updates at Northwest Catholic are to the athletic facilities – where even the color has gotten a refresh to incorporate the school’s original Kelly green.
“Those fields, they’re amazing,” Dolan said of the Breen Multi Sport Athletic Complex, which includes a turf field that will be used for football, soccer, and field hockey this fall – as well as spring sports – and a turf baseball and softball field with a portable mound. Mark Breen, a 1968 graduate of NWC, donated $2 million for the construction of the complex – which Athletic Director Ashley Mara said is one of three facilities of its type in the state. The Breen family also provided funding for the school’s art facilities.
State-of-the-art dugouts will be installed by the end of September, Mara said There are also two batting cages and bullpens in the complex.
The color of the turf was specifically chosen to be as close to the school’s green as possible, she said.
The fields were being used Thursday – the first official day of practice according to the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC) schedule – with just a few finishing touches left to be installed prior to the start of fall sports contests on Sept. 7.
New banners hang in the gym, where the floor of what is called Mirabello Court (which honors longtime boys basketball coach John Mirabello) was replaced in late 2022 and there are now shot clocks, and an LED end-of-period backboard light which Mara said is one of the only ones in the state.
“The students put so much time and dedication into the passion for their sports, and now the facilities reflect that,” Mara said. Northwest Catholic has 31 sports, and between 85% and 90% of the student body engages in at least one sport, she added.
“We have a lot of veteran coaches – really collegiate-level coaches that have a love of Catholic schools,” said Mara. There is a completely new girls soccer staff, however, and they bring a lot of club experience to the program. One coach played professional for Trinidad-Tobago, she said.
Alison Connors will be back to coach the state championship girls basketball team this winter, which has moved up to Class L, Mara said.
Updates to the curriculum include three Early College Experience (ECE) courses in conjunction with the University of Saint Joseph. Biology, English, and statistics classes can be taken at NWC and count as credits at USJ.
There’s a new world literature course, Dolan said, and an American Sign Language course which satisfies the world language graduation requirement.
“Last year we had a night for families new to Catholic education,” Dolan said, and the program will be held again on Sept. 13. Roughly 30% of the student body is not Catholic, he said, with students who are from other Christian faiths as well as Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist students among those enrolled.
The religious portion of the education is not just focused on Catholicism, and Dolan said Muslim and Jewish students have told him they have learned much more about their own faiths at Northwest Catholic.
Five new teachers have joined the staff of NWC this year, and they are being mentored by veteran teachers.
There are roughly 400 students currently enrolled, and Dolan said that capacity remains and students are still being accepted and contact the office for a tour if interested.
Rob Perry, the director of marketing, said the students come from 50 different towns, including a few who are from Massachusetts. The largest percentage is from West Hartford – roughly 15 to 25% of students – with Avon having the second-most number of students.
For the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began, Northwest also has international students. There are five students from China, and according to Mara all are staying with host families.
Students begin classes at NWC on Sept. 5, and an open house is planned for Oct. 15. On Oct. 18 – homecoming weekend – there will be an official celebration of the new Breen Athletic Complex.
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