The students started their first day meeting together in the school cafeteria, where the children caught up with friends they hadn't seen since last school year. Photo by MAURICIO JULIAN CUELLAR JR.

Students excited to be back

Mauricio Julian Cuellar Jr., Alice Echo-News Journal

Selina Perez was looking forward to the first day of school. She said her daughter Jovon was ready.

"They look forward to it," Perez said. This is Jovon's fourth year at the school, and as a second-grade student, she said she's looking forward to her First Communion this year. "I missed my friends," Jovon said.

St. Joseph's has seen an influx in their student population, especially in the lower grades. St. Joseph Principal Mary Sandoval said the school added an additional Pre-K classroom this year, after 48 students signed up for that grade level, the most the school has had in a long while, she said.

The school will have three Pre-K classes this year, and there is still a waiting list of other students who weren't able to attend because of increasing numbers.

Third-grade teacher Sylvia Garcia said the staff has been busy leading up to this week. Twenty minutes before 8 a.m., she was still arranging papers and going over her plans for Wednesday.

"Some of us have been staying as late as 11 p.m. to get ready for today," Garcia said. "We're just excited to get started."

First-year teacher at St. Joseph, Irma Marique, said she would not have been able to get her room ready in time, if not for the help and support of her husband and three children. Marique, a first-grade teacher this year at St. Joseph's, retired from Alice ISD in 2005. She said it has always been her dream after retirement to be a part of St. Joseph Catholic School.

"My dream has been fulfilled," Marique said. "I felt God gave me all those years in public school, I felt it was time to pay back by teaching here. The children are taught more values, and that's what makes them special. God's special little children."

As the time drew closer to 8 a.m., the students began to gather in the school cafeteria with their school supplies in hand.

One of the more seasoned students, sixth-grader Daniel Flores, said that he's been attending St. Joseph's since the beginning of his education, and he's looking forward to his last year there.

"I'm just excited about this last year. I'm going to wait and see how this year turns out," Flores said.

He said his education at the school has been important, because besides the normal school work, he's learned more about God, Jesus and his faith.

"I was a little nervous today," Daniel said. "Only for a couple of seconds, then it went away."