(Editor's note: With this essay, Adam won a contest at his school, St. Mary's Institute in Amsterdam. He was honored by the parish's Holy Names Society during SMI's Catholic Schools Week liturgy.)

St. Mary's Institute, otherwise known as "SMI" or "St. Mary's" to me and my fellow students, is a school that is not easily comparable to any other school. I had realized that on the first day that I had visited St. Mary's.

During Fun Day 2007, the day I shadowed Mr. Smullen's third-grade class, I knew that I would like to attend this school the following year, and so I did. The easiest and best transition I have ever made was from the over-crowded public school classes to the much smaller and friendlier St. Mary's classes.

My first day at St. Mary's had been full of shock and awe at [that] I fit in right away. The school had a great learning atmosphere. The school seemed to run daily activities a lot better than any other school I had ever been to.

All the teachers and students were very inviting and did not exclude me because I was the new student. My fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Baird, had a great sense of humor and would answer any questions on the material that she was teaching. She found ways to keep me and other students interested in subjects that are sometimes known to be boring, such as science, social studies, cursive writing and even spelling!

One of the greatest differences that I have found between public school teachers and St. Mary's teachers is that St. Mary's teachers really care. If you are having difficulty in a subject or a concept of that subject, that teacher will help you one-on-one. The teachers here are willing to stay after school or have lunch with you, if you are struggling with a subject.

A lot of teachers are involved with at least one sport, club or other extracurricular [activity]. Many of the teachers at St. Mary's also try to show the students the importance of giving back to the community through various activities and organizations, such as the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation, Pennies for Peace, Catholic Charities, and Funds for Fine Arts. The teachers are a great influence on me and the other students, and I think that is very swell.

Another benefit I get for coming to St. Mary's is that I get to speak about my religion openly and frequently. It is great to be able to proclaim my faith in God in the middle of the school day. I'm truly glad that I can say "under God" when I recite the Pledge of Allegiance. I am also glad that I can take an active part during the liturgies in the school. St. Mary's Institute is very religious and holy.

I feel that I have forgotten something, but I suppose that is because St. Mary's is so unique that I cannot fully explain what it means to me in one short paper.

As I sit in the back of Mrs. Bartyzel's classroom, I am also having difficulty coming up with a title for this. I presume I can simply call it, "St. Mary's," or, "The Greatest School," or a combination of both. It is nearly impossible to sum up how I feel about my school in a couple words for a title, but here goes my best shot.