Several hundred parents and their children turned out Saturday for a groundbreaking ceremony for the new St. Patrick Academy off Banfield Road.
Jim Broom, founder of the Hope for Tomorrow Foundation, which plans to open the new school in fall 2018, told those gathered that “Portsmouth and St. Patrick’s school go together.”
“You don’t need to go very far in this town to find someone who went to St. Pat’s, a store clerk, former mayor, lawyers, teachers, business people … it’s all part of the community,” Broom said at the site of the new school, which will be built on land near the Community Campus that the school bought from the Foundation for Seacoast Health.
The connection between Portsmouth and St. Patrick’s “is really built on friendship, family and service,” Broom said. “That makes it very, very special,” he told the crowd, which included city officials and St. Patrick’s alumni.
Mayor Jack Blalock, who acknowledged with a smile that he is not a St. Patrick’s alum, said “being mayor of a city like Portsmouth is just terrific.”
“What makes Portsmouth so great is we have people like yourselves who are willing to put your effort into creating St. Patrick’s Academy,” Blalock said. “Having St. Patrick’s as part of our community over the years has been wonderful.”
Broom told the hundreds at the groundbreaking ceremony it would not be possible without the help of many.
“The first domino that needed to fall was our relationship and agreement with the Foundation for Seacoast Health, which owns the Community Campus,” Broom said. “The foundation and the board of trustees and their CEO believed that St. Patrick’s would be added into their mission, which is for the benefit and betterment of the residents of the Seacoast.”
He then introduced the foundation’s attorney, John Lyons. Lyons, a St. Patrick’s alumni, said “the Foundation for Seacoast Health was very proud to be able to sell this land to enable you to build a new St. Pat’s school.”
“This is full circle for me. I’m a graduate of St. Pat’s. My grandfather graduated from St. Pat’s in 1906. My mother’s sitting right back there and she graduated in 1949,” Lyons said to applause.
Attending St. Patrick’s as a student made him feel “that I was special and I could do anything,” Lyons said. “It’s an opportunity for future generations to realize how special they are and that as a student at St. Pat’s you can achieve anything.”
Broom then brought up a series of people to participate in several rounds of the groundbreaking ceremony. Participants wore white construction hats and tossed shovels of dirt at the site where the new school will be built.
The first person Broom introduced for the ceremony was his mother. “I thought for sure my dad would be here today,” he said, choking back tears. “He’s not in person but he is in spirit. But I am so thrilled that my mother came back from Florida early just for this.”
The current St. Patrick’s school is on Austin Street. The new St. Patrick’s Academy will feature elementary and middle school wings and and a chapel. When the new school opens next year, it will no longer be a parochial school, but will become an independent Catholic school with a lay board of directors from the Hope for Tomorrow Foundation.