Students from Annunciation Catholic School's first eighth grade class perform a skit for other students about how not to act in Mass. (Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN)
Annunciation Catholic School’s student council, including its first eighth grade class practice a skit aimed at teaching what constitutes a uniform violation on the first day of school Aug. 18. (Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN)

The newest school in the Diocese of Phoenix now has its first graduating class in the waiting.

Two of the 12 eighth-graders at Annunciation Catholic School in Cave Creek have been there since its doors opened on the St. Gabriel Parish campus in 2009. They were second-graders at the time and huddled around their principal in a small circle — with first-graders too — for opening prayer.

Six years later, a multipurpose room full of students in kindergarten through seventh grade sat between them and their beloved principal, Dr. Sharon Pristash, who has guided them all along. The eighth-graders barely managed to find floor space in the back during Morning Prayer on the first day of school Aug. 18. Campus enrollment stands at 189, eight times what it was when Annunciation opened.

“It’s been really cool to watch it grow and have all the new kids come in,” eighth-grader Emma Sharp said.

That includes younger siblings for many of the school’s top dogs, or top angels, judging by their mascot. Students of all ages have pioneered everything at the school from chess, clay and art clubs to its award-winning sports teams to a forthcoming school store aimed at encouraging entrepreneurial and business spirit among older students who will run it.

Erin Hill said being at a Catholic school taught her the importance of getting involved because those experiences can help gain employment. A few classmates were shocked and proud to learn that fellow eighth-grader Drew Savage has a regular volunteer job with a local veterinarian.

They’re all eager to continue setting a good example for Annunciation’s younger students. That means trying their best, showing respect and listening to their teachers, they said. Sharp added that Catholic schools also help students polish their social skills.

School administrators and the student council spent part of the first day of school reminding students how to properly greet someone on campus and how to follow the dress code. Pristash also reminded students of the key to finding joy in life. The principal said to think of it as an acronym for thinking of Jesus first, then others and finally yourself.

She saw plenty of joy on the first day of school. The kindergarteners were confident and tear-free. Families and happy kids filled the campus. Pristash is ready to further strengthen student ties later in the school year as they form community tribes. Each one will have student representatives from each grade level.

“It will be a great way for our community to get to know each other,” Pristash said and not lose its close bonds as the student body continues to increase.