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Waldron Mercy Academy celebrates 100 years of creating changemakers in the world

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Waldron Mercy Academy
Waldron Mercy Academy Courtesy of Waldron Mercy Academy

Over the past 100 years, Waldron Mercy Academy has continued to adapt to meet learners where they are in an ever-changing academic, social and technological world — while emphasizing the values of mercy and justice.

Located on the Main Line, minutes from Philadelphia, PA, Waldron Mercy Academy (WMA) is a preschool through grade 8 private Catholic school. With an expansive alumni network, students take what they learn within the halls of WMA and apply it to their lives in high school and far beyond.

For Ashley Kontostergios, an alum from the class of 1999, WMA has become much more than a fond memory. Beyond being an institution that provided Kontostergios with the tools to succeed, WMA has become her home away from home.

“I was teaching Spanish in a public school in Philadelphia when I started to have my own children. At that time, I kept an eye on Waldron as I decided where to send them. But, once I stepped back on the campus, I couldn’t imagine a better place for my children to learn and grow,” said Kontostergios.

In an unexpected turn of events, Kontostergios became not only a parent to three children enrolled at the school, but also WMA’s Spanish teacher.

“I’m so grateful to have the opportunity to work here as well as to send my children here, to experience what I did as a student,” said Kontostergios. “And as we approach our hundredth year of educating at WMA, it’s become clear that our nurturing yet rigorous academic environment leads to great success.”

Courtesy of Waldron Mercy Academy

Changemakers in the world

WMA provides students the confidence to be leaders and changemakers in the world.

“Our students genuinely love coming to school each day. Our teachers and administrators help guide them to become successful learners and help them along that journey to earn that distinction. We all work as a team,” said Kontostergios. “There’s a collective effort to help one another, which is evident through the success and achievements of our students year after year.”

In recognition of their efforts in and out of the classroom, the U.S. Department of Education named WMA a National Blue Ribbon School in 2001, 2009, and 2020. The National Blue Ribbon Schools Program recognizes public and private elementary, middle, and high schools based on their overall academic excellence.

In addition to WMA’s interdisciplinary and academically rigorous approach to education, students continue to challenge themselves by joining stimulating clubs and extracurriculars. 

WMA students participate in the World Affairs Council Model UN program, where 8th grade students act as diplomats and represent countries from around the world.

As each student learns about and represents a different nation, they must work to find a resolution that implements positive change in their own country and other countries as well. This year, students are working together to discuss implementing sustainable food systems and sustainable cities.

“We believe that Model UN allows our students to become more aware of the world around them and how other people live and struggle, all while inspiring them to be changemakers of the 21st century,” said 7th and 8th grade social studies teacher Eileen Flanagan.

Courtesy of Waldron Mercy Academy

Learning to serve

Founded by the Sisters of Mercy in 1923, WMA’s committed to fulfilling its charge of service by encouraging students to use their academic skills to think about ways to help their communities.

“Service-learning challenges students to reach beyond their outreach, reflect on their experiences, and then take action,” said Director of Religious Education and Outreach Greg Soltis.

Students discuss what it means to be driven by a mission of faith. Service-learning at WMA echoes the rhythmic beat of contemplation and action at the heart of the Sisters of Mercy and their foundress, Catherine McAuley.

From preschool through 8th grade, students support local outreach partners, including homeless shelters and hospitals. 

Over the past few months, 4th graders have spread cheer to individuals experiencing homelessness by packing 200 bags with toiletries, sweet treats, and a card. The bags were delivered to one of WMA’s Outreach Partners, Bethesda Project, for distribution. Meanwhile, 8th graders created 20 no-sew Linus blankets to keep local cancer patients warm.

There are also year-round, school-wide opportunities for families to serve together, from collecting donations to packing lunches. WMA partners with St. Francis Inn in Kensington to offer H.O.P.E. (Helping Other People Eat) Lunches once a month. Students pack lunches for guests of St. Francis Inn, which parents then deliver.

During the holiday season, families offer and deliver hundreds of Thanksgiving meals and Christmas presents to our outreach partners. There are also year-round opportunities for families to provide and serve meals at St. Columba’s, a men’s shelter from Project H.O.M.E, as well as to volunteer together at Cradles to Crayons.

“The purpose is to deepen the students’ understanding of what they are doing and tie their service to bigger global issues,” said 4th grade religion and math teacher Bonnie Guarini.

Even as many students surge into summer vacation, some of WMA’s rising 8th graders apply for the opportunity to participate in a week of service at the start of their break.

In May 2017, WMA achieved a Program of Distinction from the Middle States Association for their stellar Service Learning curriculum. Waldron Mercy is the first and, to date, only school to have this honor bestowed.

“Empowered to address the needs they experience in their world, WMA students develop the confidence and initiative to develop their outreach opportunities. And years after graduating, they continue to embody the Mercy mission, as evident in our website’s video series of WMA alums called Mercy Mindset. Waldron students not only serve to learn, but learn to serve,” said Soltis.

For more information, visit Waldron Mercy Academy.