Pope John XXIII High School Principal Thomas Mahoney stood outside the school auditorium welcoming alumni, parents, and students to a rally Monday night.
Mahoney said because of International Residential Management [IRM] not fulfilling its financial obligations to the school for its placement of international students, Pope John needs to raise approximately $1.5 million by a deadline of May 23. The school has to show the Archdiocese of Boston that it is a viable institution financially moving forward.
“We’re here to rally support from alumni and let the parents know what’s going on,” said Mahoney.
Athletic Director Paul Sobolewski, who is leading the fundraising effort with Director of Advancement Kelleyrobin Mulvihill, said the school had raised more than $50,000 in donations to-date.
State Rep. Joseph McGonagle, a Class of 1977 Pope John graduate, was the first of several speakers to address the large gathering.
“I’m very sad to see the news about the school [closing],” said McGonagle, adding that he received an outstanding education as a Pope John student back in the 1970s. “I applaud everybody for giving their donations to try to save this school.”
McGonagle said he intends to write a letter to Attorney General Maura Healey “to start a lawsuit against this company [IRM]that has refused to pay for the international students.”
“I believe she [Healey] will help us and fight for us to restore Pope John High School back to its glory days,” said McGonagle.
City Councillor Michael McLaughlin said he wanted to show his support to the school. “This school has stood for 50-plus years and that is remarkable it has been her for so long,” said McLaughlin. “It’s brought so many great victories for our community and so many wonderful people have come out of this school and gone on to do so many great things.”
McLaughlin said he and fellow city councillor, Fred Capone, a Pope John parent, intend to reach out Wednesday to Encore Boston Harbor as a potential major donor.
“They [Encore] have brought so much good, positive community feeling to Everett and the surrounding communities and this school is not just about Everett, it’s about the state of Massachusetts and that’s what Encore has represented from the beginning.
“I’m sure if they hear the story of what is happening here on this hill, they’ll be more than happy to be able to support whatever they can do make partners to see the school move forward,” said McLaughlin.
Head of School Carl DiMaiti said he has enjoyed his position at Pope John after a brilliant administrative career at St. Mary’s High School of Lynn where his two children, Drew and Carol, were exceptional student-athletes.
“I’ve been part of the Pope John school community for three years,” said DiMaiti. “Initially I was supposed to be here for one year, but the school community is so accepting, so exceptional that I made a commitment to stay as long as the Board of Trustees would have me here.”
DiMaiti said he was proud of the school’s faculty and staff “by the way they’ve reacted to what is really a crisis situation.”
“The students have also done a remarkable job,” he added.
DiMaiti has contacted alumni and believes the school community can raise “the large amount of money by May 23. I’m absolutely convinced we can do it.”
Two of Pope John’s current students, junior Sarita Chen and senior Mekhi Collins, also spoke at the rally.
“As a junior, it’s upsetting to find out that you may not graduate with the people you started your first day of high school with,” said Chen. “I have made a countless amount of friendships and met people [whom] I call my family. Having a school where you know about everyone and being an affordable, diverse Catholic High School is what makes Pope John.”
Chen said she hopes to see her younger sister attend Pope John and walk across the stage for her graduation, “just as all of us as students would, too.”
Collins, who has received an academic and athletic scholarship to Cardinal Stritch University in Milwaukee, delivered one of the most powerful speeches of the evening.
A standout guard on the 2018 state championship boys basketball team, Collins told how his mother’s perseverance early in his life helped him to go on achieve in the classroom and on the basketball court.
“Bringing the first-ever basketball state championship was an honor for us,” said Collins. “I’ve never felt the whole school support like I witnessed last year. I’ve never seen a school so tightly knitted until I got to Pope John. I’ve never felt so part of a school family until I got to Pope John.”
Collins said he will be the first person from his family to attend college and he’s grateful to the Pope John faculty for helping him attain his goals.
“I can’t thank Pope John enough and I can’t thank everyone who has been a part of my Pope John experience enough. My heart will always reside at 888 Broadway, Everett, Mass.”
Sobolewski, who led Pope John to the Super Bowl in December, said he was one of four siblings to have attended the school.
“I can’t tell you what the school has meant to us,” said Sobolewski. “It’s really paved the way for our future and our careers.”
He said the school is starting a corporate campaign to secure funds “for our immediate needs and future endowment fund.”
Mulvihill said alumni and parents can follow the school’s fundraising drive on the school Website.
“We are so grateful to all of you,” said Mulvihill. “We can’t thank you all enough for having the passion for Pope John that you have.”
A question and answer period followed the rally, during which DiMaiti assured parents that if the school remains open, it will offer all of the athletic and academic programs that currently exist at the school.