TICONDEROGA - St. Mary's School in Ticonderoga is known for its strong academic program.
But that's not the best part of the school, according to state Sen. Betty Little.
"At St. Mary's you know you are loved - by your parents, your faculty and your community," Little told students Feb. 5.
"As you go forward," she added, "That feeling of love, knowing God loves you, will help in all the challenges you face."
Little attended Mass at St. Mary's Church to kick off Catholic Schools Week. The Mass was offered for school benefactors, like Little.
Celebrating the Mass was Father Bill Muench, assisted by Deacon Elliot Shaw.
The senator recently secured a $75,000 New York Power Authority grant to improve energy efficiency at the school.
Using the grant, St. Mary's School is installing new energy-efficient lighting and ceilings and new exterior doors and will proceed with improved weather stripping for existing windows.
Sister Sharon Dalton, principal at St. Mary's School, thanked Little for her support and welcomed her to the school.
"Sen. Little has a long history of support and commitment to Catholic education," Dalton said.
Little is the product of Catholic education. She is a graduate of St. Mary's Academy of Glens Falls and the College of Saint Rose.
She noted her parents, children, grandchildren and other relatives have attended Catholic schools.
"When I think of my years in Catholic school, things were certainly different," Little said.
She added the main message of Catholic education has not changed, though, noting the work of St. Mary's students to assist earthquake victims in Haiti, their visits to local nursing homes and community service.
"I certainly commend all the students at St. Mary's for the work they do," the senator said.
Little said Catholic Schools Week is important.
"It's an opportunity to recognize Catholic education, it's uniqueness and all it brings to students' lives," she said. "It's an opportunity to be grateful for what Catholic schools add to our communities. It's also an opportunity to celebrate the existence of St. Mary's and its wonderful students."
Before returning to the state legislature, Little asked for the prayers of students.
"As I go back to Albany I appreciate your prayers," she said. "Believe me, we need them."
Little, who is in her fourth term representing the 45th Senate District, is the ranking member of the Local Government Committee and also serves on the Education Committee, among others.
She is a former teacher and is the mother of six children.
Following the Mass Little joined other school benefactors at a reception in the school gymnasium.
St. Mary's School celebrated its 50th anniversary last June.
Construction started on the school on Amherst Avenue in March 1958 and the first students attended classes in September 1959.
When St. Mary's School opened it welcomed 171 students in grades 1-4. An additional class was added each year until the school had eight grades in 1963-64.
The school was staffed then - and now - by the Sisters of St. Joseph. In 1959 the faculty consisted of all nuns. The first lay teacher joined the faculty in 1961.