Hanna Boys Center is based on the three core values formulated in 1945: faith, education and caring. “Faith” means that we believe there is a God who can guide and care for us if we let Him. At Hanna, this translates into the daily rituals of grace before meals, morning and evening prayers, Sunday services and a campus ministry program. “Education” means the absolute importance of learning how to feed the brain for the rest of our lives.
Father O’Connor, the first director of Hanna Boys Center, would not open our doors until he had secured the services of the teaching Sisters of St. Francis from Milwaukee. During HBC’s first years, education was focused on a middle school with fourth- through eighth-grades and a scattering of ninth- and 10th-grade curricula. As more older boys applied and were accepted as students, we evolved into a full high school in 1985. Full accreditation came in 2006. Our youngest boy now is in eighth grade.
With very few exceptions, all our students attend our school, where they experience the benefits of small class size and the individual attention they want and need. “Caring” means learning how to live together with peers and adults, practicing respect, sharing and compromise. Through all these years, the school has been blessed with dedicated teachers and staff. We are always exploring possibilities for our boys. Currently, this includes enhancing the school’s technology program and expanding opportunities in the trades.
The residential setting enjoyed by Hanna boys ensures that education in one form or another goes on all hours of the day, every day of the week. But the specifically “school” part of that education has come to occupy a steadily more significant role over the years, exemplified by the change in 2006 from “Hanna Boys Center School” to “Archbishop Hanna High School.” The change was not merely cosmetic. The name change meant we were fully accredited for seventh through 12th grade for the first time.
Principal Dennis Crandall migrated to Hanna in 2004 after a 30-year career at Cardinal Newman High School in Santa Rosa. Crandall’s move represented yet another step in the transformation of Hanna from a low key, mostly primary school-based operation to a full-fledged high school.
The boys kept getting older, and we began to see that they would benefit from staying on campus to better integrate their home and school life. So we set out to do just that by stepping up our educational program.
Hanna graduated just two boys from our own school the year I started at Hanna. This past school year, we graduated 26 seniors and promoted 13 eighth-graders to high school. We’ll have more than 100 students in the upcoming year, with 17 full-time teachers and an increasing emphasis on college prep classes that meet UC guidelines. A lot of people thought that was too ambitious. But our message to our boys is, “Push beyond your limits. The efforts always pay off.” And they have. We are really on the move here.
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Kris Van Giesen is the chief development and community relations officer at Hanna Boys Center.