New classical school in the Catholic tradition will educate 22 students this fall, with eye toward bright future rooted in prayer, classics

CLINTON TOWNSHIP — “Man must have just enough faith in himself to have adventures, and just enough doubt in himself to enjoy them.”

How fitting it was for 20th century English writer and philosopher G.K. Chesterton to be quoted during the ribbon-cutting ceremony of the newest classical school that’s part of the Chesterton Schools Network: the Chesterton Academy of Our Lady of Guadalupe, based in Clinton Township.

Headmaster Peter Ohotnicky, along with school co-founders David Miller and Alejandra Correa-Miller, officially opened the school Sept. 3 with students, families, benefactors and local clergy in attendance.

The independent, classical school in the Catholic tradition is located on South Nunneley Road in Clinton Township at the former site of St. Luke Lutheran School, which the Chesterton Academy is renting. The school will welcome 22 students when it begins classes Sept. 8.

A bust of Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936), the English Catholic writer and philosopher and the namesake of the Chesterton Schools, is pictured with the ceremonial ribbon-cutting scissors.

Although the Chesterton Academy is not an official Catholic school affiliated with the Archdiocese of Detroit, it will educate students in the Catholic tradition. Ohotnicky told Detroit Catholic in February the school eventually would like to receive such a designation, and that Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron would like to see the school operate for a few years before designating it as a Catholic school. 

“This has certainly been an adventure,” Ohotnicky said during the Sept. 3 ribbon-cutting. “This is a day for you board members, for David and Alejandra, and for the teachers we’ve hired who have entrusted their futures, their livelihood to this adventure.”

The Chesterton Schools Network began in Minneapolis in 2008, and the Chesterton Academy of Our Lady of Guadalupe is the 30th school in the network that spans the United States, Canada and Italy.

Ohotnicky said the official unveiling is a monumental achievement, especially considering the challenges 2020 has brought. 

“It’s hard enough opening a school, but trying to work through the process during coronavirus restrictions, executive orders and all these types of things have limited our ability to recruit families and interact with them,” Ohotnicky told Detroit Catholic.

Co-founder David Miller and Headmaster Peter Ohotnicky pose with the scissors used for the ceremonial cutting of the ribbon during the school’s opening ceremony on Sept. 3.

Ohotnicky thanked St. Luke School, which closed in spring 2019, for welcoming the chance for the Chesterton Academy to move in. 

“They saw our mission and were excited about having the chance to support it. They saw how compatible it was with their beliefs as a church,” Ohotnicky said. “This is a wonderful facility, well taken care of, with a gym, athletic fields and close to San Francesco Catholic Church, which has been so supportive of us as well.”

The Chesterton Academy of Our Lady of Guadalupe originally intended to open with ninth through 11th grades, but one senior elected to enroll for this year. The school is the first classical-oriented high school in the Archdiocese of Detroit, complementing John Paul II Classical School in Lincoln Park, which opened last year.

Students will begin each school day with 8 a.m. daily Mass at San Francesco Parish — a mile east of the school on the other side of Gratiot Avenue — before beginning lessons rooted in a classical curriculum with a focus on philosophy, Latin, literature and the arts.

“What really drew us to the Chesterton schools was it starts with daily Mass,” co-founder Alejandra Correa-Miller said. “Then the classical curriculum attracted us, the style of teaching. Students will learn the Socratic Seminary, learning by questions and discovering truth and searching for truth on their own, so it develops critical thinkers.”

Two Chesterton Academy of Our Lady of Guadalupe students pose in their uniforms for a picture after the school’s opening on Sept. 3.

Correa-Miller said recruitment efforts for the Chesterton Academy of Our Lady of Guadalupe was encumbered by COVID-19, but the school’s model was still attractive enough to draw interest across the Archdiocese of Detroit.

“One of the things that really struck a lot of families was the joy,” said Correa-Miller, who serves as interim executive director of the school and a theology teacher. “We are here to teach the faith with joy. That’s the charism Chesterton had, to see awe and wonder in the world. That’s what sealed the deal for a lot of families.”

Ohotnicky attributes opening the school to God’s grace, giving families in southeast Michigan another option for a Christ-centered education that seeks to form a child’s mind and soul.

“I’m excited for the students and their families, seeing students eager to learn and families who have entrusted their children to us,” Ohotnicky said. “We need to thank our teachers, our benefactors and board members who have sacrificed their time, treasure and talent to make it possible for the school to open.”