An acorn and an oak. A small seed and a mighty outcome. This is the history of Nora Cronin Presentation Academy.
The concept of seed and accomplishment can be traced back to the founder of the Sisters of Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Nano Nagle. When she was but a young woman, she was struck by the deep contrast in opportunity between the rich and the poor of her time. The lasting impression of these disparate lifestyles spurred her on to find ways to help poor young girls develop both their faith and their education.
One day four centuries later, the Sisters of Nano's congregation were challenged by their leadership to dream about needed ministries of their time. On December 9, 1999, the Leadership Team of the Sisters of the Presentation, New Windsor, New York, asked its members to dream of areas of ministries they would like to serve if finances were not an obstacle. Among other ministries, a group was formed to investigate the possibility of a grade school for girls from low income families in the City of Newburgh at Mt. St. Joseph, the motherhouse of the Sisters. After several months, the group dismantled after the realization of the financial impossibility of such an endeavor. Several months later, at the insistence of Sister Nora Cronin, Sister Yliana Hernández contacted the original group to explore the idea anew. A smaller group accepted the invitation; Presentation Sisters Nora Cronin, Joan Mary Gleason, Yliana Hernández, Ann Marie McMahon, Carol Melsopp, Helen Marie Raynor, and Associate Jackie Martinez. The sisters and associate met periodically for a year and a half to share their ideas about Presentation Learning Center, as the school would be called, but the constant obstacle was cost.
Sister Nora Cronin continued to encourage her fellow Sisters to pursue the idea of the Presentation Learning Center, and brought to their attention a resource called the Nativity Schools. The Sisters continued to meet monthly to find ways to make this dream a reality.
On Oct. 1, 2003, Sisters Yliana and Nora sent a letter to the Cassin Educational Initiative Foundation requesting $15,000 to conduct a feasibility study on the idea of the school. This was considered a make or break point in the whole process. On October 26th, 2003, the check from the Cassin Initiative arrived! For the next nine months, the feasibility study was conducted. On July 16, 2004, the Presentation Educational Foundation was incorporated to raise money for the school.
Sr. Nora Cronin had been ill for a number of years, yet most were taken by surprise when she was called home to God on March 3, 2004. After Sr. Nora's death, the committee decided to change the name of the school to Nora Cronin Presentation Academy. A principal was needed to lead the school, and perhaps through the encouragement of Sr. Nora over the years, Sr. Yliana Hernández, PBVM, volunteered.
On January 8, 2005, Nora Cronin Presentation Academy was accepted to the Nativity Educational Centers Network. On January 25, 2005, the Cassin Foundation provided $150,000 over three years in seed money for the school.
Sr. Yliana began looking for a building in the City of Newburgh which could become the home of Nora Cronin Presentation Academy. When she came upon 69 Bay View Terrace, on the famed and historic "Heights" of Newburgh, she was immediately attracted to the nineteenth century building. Once a premier home in Newburgh's east end, the building had fallen into severe disrepair over the decades, and had been reclaimed by the City of Newburgh. For a year, Sr. Yliana worked with the City of Newburgh and its Architectural Review Board to effect an appropriate deal through which the Presentation Educational Foundation could buy the building and renovates it in a manner in keeping with its historic past. Once this was accomplished, the Foundation began to accumulate pledges for labor and materials to restore the future school building.
With the building secured and renovations begun, Nora Cronin Presentation Academy sought a charter from the New York State Department of Education. The charter was granted in June of 2006.
The renovations needed at Bay View Terrace, the dependence on volunteer labor, and a difficult economic climate resulted in a slow process in getting the school ready for students. In the interim, fifteen fifth grade students began the 2006-2007 school year with their teacher, Sr. Eleanor Joyce, PBVM, in temporary quarters at Mount Saint Joseph in New Windsor, NY, the Motherhouse of the Sisters of the Presentation. At the end of the school year, in anticipation of the need for more space with the addition of another class to the school, Nora Cronin Presentation Academy moved to Calvary Presbyterian Church at 120 South Street in the City of Newburgh. Ms. Kristy Matesic joined the faculty as the Grade 6 teacher. Nora Cronin Presentation now had an expanded faculty and 30 students.
In 2008, a third class of girls would join the school, as well as a third teacher, Ms. Melanie Fesco, who would become the Grade 7 teacher. Three quarters of the school population was now enrolled, and forty three students.
With the arrival of the 2009-2010 school year, Nora Cronin Presentation Academy was poised for several great happenings. The student body would reach its full complement, Sr. Mary Eileen Troy, PBVM, would join the faculty as a full time classroom teacher, and Nora Cronin Presentation Academy would send forth its first graduating class of fifteen girls.
The school would remain for one more year at Calvary Presbyterian Church. A second graduating class would take their place as alumni, and, during the summer of 2011, Sr. Yliana would coordinate the final needs for moving to Bay View Terrace.
The initial thought of Nora Cronin Presentation Academy was but the acorn. As the years unfolded, the seed took root through great faith and answered prayers. Today, Nora Cronin Presentation Academy stands ready to develop into the mighty oak which will help the underprivileged students of Newburgh use their faith and their education to break the cycle of poverty, following the philosophy and example set by Nano Nagle so many centuries ago.