Mrs. Nancy Harlan, a 3rd grade teacher at Country Day of the Holy Union School in Groton helps student Rosemary O'Neill of Groton with her reading. Pilot photo/courtesy Holy Union School
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GROTON -- Students learn more than just the basics at the Country Day of the Holy Union School in Groton -- they are taught the fundamental building blocks to ensure success in their future, says principal Mary Hamelin.
"We definitely have a challenging curriculum, and often find ourselves ahead of our public school peers," she said, "but more than that, we have such a sense of community and care within our school that students learn to thrive."
According to Hamelin, this is due in part to the school's size. With just under 80 students in the pre-K through grade 6 school, students are given individualized attention.
"There certainly is no getting lost in the crowd here," she joked, but noted that the school's size is but one aspect that contributes to the school's close-knit feel.
"When I think about Country Day, I like to think about human dignity. Each person has been given human dignity and we, as a school, try to foster that dignity and to help our students grow into responsible young men and women who are in the service of others, not only looking out for themselves," she said.
"Our job is to provide for their growth and potential -- not to limit them in any way because they are too young to limit their ambitions and horizons," she added.
This is done with the "unwritten curriculum" that permeates through the school. Students as early as pre-K are taught public speaking -- leading prayer services, or speaking in front of their class.
"Of course, this is not done every week, but it is part of the curriculum of the school so that by the time our students graduate, they are comfortable speaking in front of a crowd," Hamelin said.
Students also are given age-appropriate responsibilities as soon as they enter Country Day, she added, which helps them to learn the importance of working together.
"I know these are not glamorous skills, but they are absolutely essential skills no matter what our students go on to in high school and beyond," she said.
"We don't need to know what you are going to be in the future. We just need to give you the tools and the skills needed for success in all futures," continued Hamelin.
According to Hamelin, the students at Country Day of the Holy Union come from Groton and the surrounding communities of the Nashoba Valley.
"Once you come to the northwest side of the archdiocese, there aren't too many Catholic schools to choose from," she said, noting that some students' families live more than 25 miles away. Nevertheless, almost every family participates in school-related activities.
"Several parents have told me that their experiences at our school have made them more comfortable with their faith," Hamelin said. "And I think that really is because we have such a strong community here."
Although Hamelin has only been the principal of the school for the past four years, she first became involved in the school in 1990 when she enrolled her young daughters. Seven years later, she became a teacher's aide, then a science and religion teacher and lastly an administrator.
"I feel like I've grown up in this place," she laughed, adding "but honestly, I love this school. I've experienced things from a variety of lenses and I honestly can say that there's something about this school that is precious."