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Royalmont senior literally in a class by himself

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Royalmont Academy Classical Preparatory High School senior Isaac Chmiel poses for a photo in the school's chapel. Chmiel is the only student in his graduating class, the first in Royalmont history. (CT Photo/John Stegeman)
Royalmont Academy Classical Preparatory High School senior Isaac Chmiel poses for a photo in the school’s chapel. Chmiel is the only student in his graduating class, the first in Royalmont history. (CT Photo/John Stegeman)

By John Stegeman
The Catholic Telegraph

Royalmont Academy Classical Preparatory High School student Isaac Chmiel is in a league of his own.

The senior represents the entirety of the Royalmont class of 2015. He’s also the school’s first high school graduate as Royalmont became a secondary school this academic year after previously serving as a preK-eight institution.

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Chmiel, one of eight children of Don and Jamie Chmiel, attended Royalmont Academy from first through eighth grade. Upon eighth grade graduation, his parents chose to home school him for three years before the opportunity came to return to Royalmont.

“When I talk to other people about it, it is shocking to them that there’s only one person,” Chmiel said of the experience. “Being the only one has been different because you’re kind of separated from everyone else but you kind of do everything with the younger grades too. The younger grades treat me as a friend but a little more as a leader.”

Royalmont’s present high school enrollment is 16 students, making it the smallest Catholic high school within the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.

The school announced in the summer of 2013 it would open grades nine through 12 all at once for the 2014-15 school year. Despite the small size, Royalmont’s high school fielded varsity level basketball, track and cross country teams in the Ohio Christian School Athletic Association. Swimming and golf may be on the horizon.

Royalmont will soon host its first prom, in conjunction with a local home school association, and it hired Courtney Brown to be its first principal for the high school.

The parents of the 16 students are in a unique position, but all have committed to the Royalmont way of Catholic education.

“They definitely are pioneers, and that’s not to say everything has been smooth,” said Tony Ferraro, Royalmont Academy’s executive director. “It hasn’t by any stretch of the imagination. It does take a very unique young person and family to be in these first couple classes. They have to be very flexible and know a lot of questions are unanswered.”

One question with an easy answer for the Chmiels was returning to Royalmont once the high school opened. Chmiel, his brother, Luke, and sister, Marissa, are all enrolled this year.

“Because of our experience through the years with Royalmont… there was always that desire to have the high school,” Don Chmiel said. “Once that opportunity arose, there really was no question.”

“We knew that they would continue the formation and the mission,” Jamie Chmiel added. “We’ve already seen the dedication of the teachers and the staff. We’re so grateful for that.”

Next year Ferraro expects the school to grow by 10-15 students.

As for Isaac Chmiel, his lone year as a Royalmont high school student has been chock full of activities. He was a member of the school’s basketball team — the Cristeros — is an altar server, works in the sacristy, and is part of a youth group. When asked what else he enjoyed about his time at Royalmont, he spoke of the school’s strong Catholic identity.

“There’s a lot of focus on the faith here,” Chmiel said. “We have Mass three times a week. We’re taking two religion courses… On the days we don’t have Mass, we have morning prayer in the chapel. There’s priests always around for confession or spiritual guidance and direction. The priests are also our friends too. It is a really good place to grow in your faith.

“I’m glad that I have the honor to be the very first graduate and that it will go down in the history books,” Chmiel added. “It’s not like my GPA is extremely top notch or anything, but I still get to be the valedictorian.”

After graduation Chmiel plans to join the Regnum Christi Mission Corps for a year of missionary work. He then hopes to attend Ave Maria University in Florida.

This graduation feature originally appeared in the June 2015 print edition of The Catholic Telegraph

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