By Laura Kilgus, Assistant Editor
PROVIDENCE — “When I grow up, I either want to be a FBI agent or a librarian, I haven’t decided yet,” said Yvette Hughes, a second grader at Blessed Sacrament School in Providence, demonstrating that for students attending Catholic Schools around the Diocese of Providence their dreams are within reach.
This upcoming week marks the beginning of the annual celebration of Catholic education in the United States — Catholic Schools Week (CSW). From January 31 until February 6, schools throughout the country and locally will observe CSW with Masses, open houses and other activities for students, families, parishioners and community members. Through these events, schools focus on the value Catholic education provides to young people and its contributions to the Church and communities. This year’s theme is “Catholic Schools: Communities of Faith, Knowledge and Service.”
All schools prepare the minds of their students, explained Joan Sickinger, principal of St. Peter School Warwick, but Catholic schools prepare the soul as well.
“Catholic schools are rich in academics and rooted in faith,” she said. “They provide an educational program based on religious beliefs and values, enabling a child to grow in their understanding of themselves, their relationship with God and their relationship with others. Catholic schools promote the education of children to their full potential and encourage real learning experiences.”
Sophia Piperata, an eighth-grader at St. Peter loves the close knit community that her school offers.
“I like how personal it is,” she said. “It’s such a comfortable environment, to know that you know everybody.”
That community feel is echoed from Catholic school students from around the state, including Sofia Burdiel, an eighth-grader and student council president at Immaculate Conception Catholic Regional School (ICCRS) in Cranston.
“Everyone here is so loving and caring and they really show how God wants us to love,” she shared.
For Rebecca Kelley, ICCRS principal, what makes Catholic Schools so special is the way the Gospel is woven into the curriculum. “Our students are not only learning how to read, write and develop a number sense, they are learning what values and morals are part of becoming a respectful, humble, loving person,” she said. “Their character is developed by lessons in our faith.”
Soccer, basketball and track are just some of the activities that Aaliyah Capalbo, an eighth-grader at Msgr. Clarke School in Wakefield, is involved in. For Capalbo, sports and academics, coupled with her faith-filled education, is a winning combination.
“I really like how we have Mass and religion class,” she said. “We learn a lot but we have fun doing it.”
At Msgr. Clarke, morals and values are just as important as our math and reading scores, said Assistant Principal John Connell.
“Our students’ ability to excel in the classroom and in character is what makes us most proud,” he said. “Choosing Msgr. Clarke School, or any Rhode Island Catholic school, is a wonderful choice due to our ability to teach the whole child.”
For Christopher Weber, principal of Blessed Sacrament School in Providence, Catholic schools are a great choice for today’s elementary students for so many reasons, but most importantly the freedom from public regulations that require teachers to “teach to the test.”
“In Catholic schools, the teachers are experts in formative instruction and are therefore able to address each student’s unique needs and design instruction to meet those needs,” said Weber.
When Bishop McVinney student Eve Rodriguez was in the fourth grade, she wrote an essay celebrating why Catholic schools continue to be a great choice for families. Now in eighth grade, this still rings true for Rodriguez.
“There are tremendous benefits in receiving a Catholic school education,” she said. “For me, the greatest ones are being able to pray in school, going to church, and learning about God and His Son, Jesus Christ. “We learn to be respectful and to always help those in need. We learn how important it is to treat others with kindness every day of our lives.”
Some special events featured during Catholic schools week will include science and book fairs, clothing drives, teacher and parent appreciation days, “Wear Your Prayer Day,” where students will create t-shirts that show their special prayer intentions, and so much more! Visit www.catholicschools.org to see individual school’s websites for scheduled events.