St. Dominic Savio High School five years later

By Michele Chan Santos
Senior Correspondent

This year marks the fifth anniversary of St. Dominic Savio Catholic High School in Austin. Since it opened its doors in 2009 with 85 students, the school has quadrupled its enrollment to 362 – the largest student body of any Catholic high school in the Diocese of Austin.
While St. Dominic Savio has logged some impressive numbers –– three National Merit scholars, four National Hispanic Scholars, 21 National Merit Commended Scholars, students from more than 50 different ZIP codes –– what makes the school exceptional, students and staff say, is a faith-based atmosphere that lets each student achieve in his or her own way.
“There is just such an openness for many different personalities and interests here,” said Christine Holmes, whose son, Michael, is a junior at the school. Holmes is the director of communications for St. Dominic Savio. “You feel good about dropping your child off here every day,” Holmes said. “They really promote being a leader, becoming a servant leader in the church.”
Calvin Nazareth, 17, is a senior who participates in Timothy Team, as well as a host of other extracurricular activities, including soccer and Quiz Bowl. Timothy Team is a student group that supports various aspects of spiritual formation and ministry at the school, serving in liturgy, retreat planning and other areas.
“St. Dominic Savio gave me the opportunity to make my own path,” Nazareth said. “It’s really energizing to talk about your faith. In Timothy Team, we talk about our faith all the time.”
Fellow senior Ana Sustaeta, 17, agreed. “Here at St. Dominic Savio, I feel I was introduced to a different side of my faith,” Sustaeta said. “I have been able to grow into a closer relationship with God.”
Sustaeta is also a member of the Timothy Team, and she is a dancer with the Slavin Nadal School of Ballet and a member of the National Honor Society, in addition to participating in several other activities.
“There is a good sense of community here,” Sustaeta said. “I have friends who are freshmen, and friends who are upperclassmen.”
Three main hallmarks of life at St. Dominic Savio are “a meaningful faith experience, a strong academic program and varied student activities that appeal to a diverse student body,” said Joan Wagner, president of the school.
A variety of faith formation activities are available. The Apologetics Club, Chaplain Corp, Frassati Fellowship, Liturgical Ministers, Timothy Team and the Diakonia Service Program are all extracurricular programs that support Catholic faith and spirituality. St. Dominic Savio has two teaching sisters from the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, in Ann Arbor, Mich., who help to enrich the faith life of the school. 
Three former students are also discerning religious vocation, with two young women entering the postulancy (the first stage of formation) with the Dominican sisters, and one young man entering the seminary. 
“As a college-preparatory school, we do an excellent job of preparing our young men and women for their future,” said Morgan Daniels, principal of the school. “One of our programs, Project Lead the Way, gives students an advantage going into college. In this program, students can study engineering each year they are in high school, beginning with Introduction to Engineering as freshmen and eventually moving into Engineering Development and Design as seniors. Many of the students in the program have earned college credit, and several have chosen engineering as their college major.”
St. Dominic Savio offers about 30 Advanced Placement (AP) and Pre-AP courses, he said. 
Students enjoy a wide variety of activities and can choose from 12 different sports teams, a visual and performing arts program, several honor societies, leadership and competition groups, and many special interest groups. Savio students have had several state finishes in multiple sports, including a 2012 state championship for softball, four state championships awarded in music and a robotics team that has been ranked twice internationally. 
Representatives from colleges and universities regularly visit St. Dominic Savio. Ninety-nine percent of the students who graduated in 2014 are attending college, and they were accepted at more than 100 different colleges and universities. The class of 2014 earned more than $6,537,051 in college scholarships.
“We’re very proud of our accomplishments,” Daniels said. “We are a close community. A lot of parents love that every young man and young woman here is known.”
Dr. Ned Vanders, superintendent of the Catholic Schools of the Diocese of Austin, is proud of the accomplishments St. Dominic Savio has made in its first five years.
“St. Dominic Savio Catholic High School educates the whole student,” Dr. Vanders said, “by providing an excellent, well-rounded education rooted in Gospel values.”
To learn more about St. Dominic Savio, visit www.saviochs.org or call (512) 388-8846.