Three generations of Holy Cross graduates visit their alma mater. From left to right, Maria Calandra, class of 1985; Rosina Calandra, class of 2017; and Eleanor Teti, class of 1956.
CS PHOTO BY JACLYN LIPPELMANN Three generations of Holy Cross graduates visit their alma mater. From left to right, Maria Calandra, class of 1985; Rosina Calandra, class of 2017; and Eleanor Teti, class of 1956.
This school year, the Academy of the Holy Cross in Kensington will be celebrating its 150th anniversary with a year full of festivities scheduled to mark how far the school has come since its founding in 1868.

After occupying several temporary locations during its first 10 years of operation, including the basement of St. Matthew’s in Washington, Holy Cross’s first permanent location was at 1312 Massachusetts Ave, N.W., which was purchased in 1878. The school moved to Upton Street in 1910, which was an area of the city that was then considered farmland. The sisters made the trip from the old campus to the new on horse-drawn streetcars.

The school moved to its current location in Kensington in 1956, which included an adjoining convent for 20 Sisters of the Holy Cross. The building was dedicated on Dec. 8, 1956, which was 46 years to the date after the Upton building had been dedicated.

In addition to the changes in the physical footprint, the development of what happened inside of the school’s walls can be seen through the eyes of three generations who attended the academy: Eleanor Teti, a member of the class of 1956 at the Academy of the Holy Cross; her daughter-in-law, Maria Calandra, a member of the class of 1985; and Teti’s granddaughter, Rosina Calandra, a member of the most recent class of 2017.

As they sat inside their alma mater on a summer day, Eleanor and Rosina both opened the pages of their yearbooks. Eleanor’s contained black and white school photos, while Rosina’s was full of color, with corresponding videos that girls could watch by opening an application on their phone and holding it over a picture.

Each of the women sported different uniforms during their time at the academy: Eleanor wore a brown wool skirt and blazer in the winter, and a blue plaid pleated dress in the warmer months; Maria wore her choice of pink, yellow or blue hound’s-tooth polyester skirts with a blue jacket in the winter; and Rosina wore a grey or blue kilt with a purple, blue or white polo.

Since Eleanor and Maria attended Holy Cross, the school has developed its curriculum to include the Moreau Options program, which provides an inclusive curriculum for girls with intellectual and developmental disabilities; and the International Baccalaureate (IB) program, which is an honors program designed to develop internationally minded students.

Rosina, who took a few classes in the IB program, said she “liked that it was a challenge. I pushed myself to study harder.”

Katy Prebble, the president of Holy Cross, said she is particularly proud of how the school gives girls the opportunity to excel in subjects that are typically male-dominated. Last year, the school received a grant from NASA to create a robotics team, called AHC Transformers, and “when they go to competitions, you rarely see an all-girls team,” said Prebble.

In addition, the school is adding a new engineering curriculum for the upcoming school year, which will have three different sections because so many students signed up.

But throughout all of the school’s innovations, some things have remained constant, such as the students being called “Ladies of the Academy,” the junior year ring ceremony, and the tradition of the Holy Cross Sisters. While there are no longer any Sisters of the Holy Cross teaching at the school, Prebble said her main hope for the future of the school is “that we continue to always keep foremost in our hearts and in everything we do the mission of the Sisters of the Holy Cross.”

“That is why we continue to have women that make a difference in the world,” Prebble continued. “That has to be the guiding light to everything we do as we move into the future and to continue to celebrate strong women and be willing to change with the needs of the time.”

Maria recalled that the Sisters of the Holy Cross “brought a certain kind of flavor to the school,” and, “all you had to do was see a sister in a habit” and the girls would stand up straight and behave. But the sisters encouraged their students to do more than behave, as Prebble said she has heard many graduates tell her their experience at the school inspired them to do service later in life.

“Generation after generation can point back to their experience here as to why they have become the people they have become today,” said Prebble. “So many of them are involved in some sort of service related work as well…and that is all from the sisters. Where there was need, they went, and that is why the sisters’ primary work today is in countries outside of the United States. Not that thev abandoned us in any way, [but they] continually go where there is need.”

Another constant in the life of the school is the statue of Mary that stands in the center of the circle in front of the school. Eleanor said she was comforted by the fact that the same statue of Mary once stood on her campus on Upton Street.

“It is like a piece of home,” she said.

Every year, Eleanor returns to the school for a Memorial Mass, where they remember every member of her class who has passed away by placing a rose in a vase. She also still frequently gets together with several of her friends from Holy Cross for lunch.

“I come back to this building even though I didn’t go here,” said Eleanor. “I come back because it is a Holy Cross building, and I am a Holy Cross girl.”

Eleanor proudly recalled attending “grandparent’s day” at the school, which they never had when she was a student. Maria, reflecting on what it is like to now be a parent of students at the school, joked, “I come down on the side of the administrators a lot more as a parent.”

“I look up to my mom and grandma and see how far they’ve come, and I hope I can do the same,” said Rosina, who will be attending Pepperdine University starting this fall.

While they attended Holy Cross many years apart, they were all instilled with similar lessons: Rosina said she learned “how to positively impact the world,” her mother said the school influenced her to “[look] at the world through a lens of faith and courage,” and Eleanor said it instilled in her “a more religious outlook on life.”

In the fall, Eleanor will have the opportunity to return to the building on Upton Street that she actually attended school in, which is now a part of Howard University. As a part of the anniversary celebrations, they are inviting alumnae back to the building for Mass and breakfast.

Other upcoming anniversary festivities include a Sept. 24 Mass with Cardinal Donald Wuerl, a Nov. 10 all-alumni reunion, a day of service to mark the 150th day of school, a March 24 benefit auction and gala, and a showcase of old artifacts in a “heritage display” at the school.

Prebble said she hopes the anniversary will both provide the opportunity for alumnae to return to the school, and for new people to learn about Holy Cross.

“We want to take all of the pieces that have made the Holy Cross story so strong and share it,” she said.

A full schedule of anniversary events can be found at the school’s website: http://www.academyoftheholycross.org/page.cfm?p=14037