YONKERS, N.Y. (WCBS 880) — After nearly a century of service, Sacred Heart High School in Yonkers was on the brink not so long ago.

“It seemed like this school was going the way of other schools,” said Bill Pataky. “It was a sad thing to watch.”

Pataky, a 1995 alumnus, cherishes his Catholic education.

“The teachers were incredible; lifelong friendships,” he told WCBS 880’s Sean Adams. “It gave me the building blocks that I needed – educationally; spiritually. You know, you learn how to be an adult here.”

One of the saviors of Sacred Heart is a new pastor and president – who is easy to mistake for a teenager a when he’s not clad in his brown robe.

“And I was running down to the gym to play basketball with some of the basketball players, and I was wearing shorts and a T-shirt. I walked past a group of freshmen, and they said, ‘Oh, who’s the new student?’” said the Rev. Matt Janeczko, “and I turned around and I said, ‘It’s Father Matt!’”

Janeczko, a 33-year-old Capuchin Franciscan, set about resurrecting Sacred Heart. He started with a bright idea – new LED lights.

“Seniors came bouncing down hall. They said: ‘Father Matt, that’s so cool! Look at how bright it is!’” Janeczko said. “So it increases the morale – not only of the staff and the students, but it also makes them then proud.”

Sacred Heart High School, Yonkers

The chapel has been refurbished at Sacred Heart High School in Yonkers. (Credit: Sean Adams/WCBS 880)

Janeczko and his team spruced up in other ways – redoing the chapel, and also rebranding the school crest and promotional materials. New principal Karen Valenti-Dececco is looking at the curriculum.

“We are looking into expanding our college-level courses as well as our AP courses, and we have an academic council that’s been up and running,” Valenti-Dececco said.

Sacred Heart High School: Bill Pataky, Karen Valenti-Dececco, Rev. Matt Janeczko

Alumnus Bill Pataky, principal Karen Valenti-Dececco, and president Rev. Matt Janeczko, of Sacred Heart High School in Yonkers. (Credit: Sean Adams/WCBS 880)

Pataky started an alumni association. Pataky noted that the alumni include doctors, lawyers, actors, a couple of sports figures, firefighters, police officers, and many Yonkers police commissioners including the current one.

Past grads are lending a hand.

“Fundraising is up; the enrollment is up – which are all good signs,” Janeczko said.

Sacred Heart’s mission continues.

“Very often, our students leave here not simply with an excellent education, but they leave grounded in knowing what it means to be a servant for other people; knowing what it means to give back,” Janeczko said.

Hear their extended interview at the top of this post and find more Stories From Main Street by clicking here.

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