Each week, DNAinfo.com talks to a principal from one of Manhattan's schools. This week, it's Sister Mary Dixon of Holy Cross School at 332 W. 43rd St. A Dominican nun who lives just up the street, Mary Dixon has been principal at the 125-year-old school for 25 years, and has seen the school — and the neighborhood — change over that time.
How has the school changed since you've become principal?
The school was always a school full of immigrant children. Originally, they were the children whose fathers worked down at the piers, so they would come here, drop their children off, go down to the piers and work, come back and pick them up.
Now, the population is still immigrant, but it’s changed. Within the building we have some 30 languages.
What is the most important thing that you want students graduating the school to have learned?
I always want them to know that they have a place to come back to. That we rejoice with their successes, and that we've always pushed them to be the best that they can be, and to be able to perform up to their abilities. I think I've seen that happen when former students come back to school and say ‘I thought it was tough when I was here, but I realize now what I know.’
It’s an inner-city school, challenges here you might not have anywhere else. Many of the children are bilingual, English is not their first language. You deal with that wanting to respect their culture and their language, yet wanting them to be the best they can be in society, in New York, or wherever they’re going to be — and that they’re competitive. I want them, when they get to the eighth grade, to be able to have options.
What makes this school different from other schools?
I think what sets it apart is a great diversity. I also think that it’s different in that many of the parents bring their children here to school on their way to work, you don’t have a lot of that in other schools, they’re more contained. They’re like a neighborhood. We do have neighborhood students, but we do have a number of students who travel because their mothers work here in the city, and that’s what makes it different.