PROVIDENCE — Christmas came early for The Prout School community as Bishop Thomas J. Tobin presented the diocesan high school with a major gift of $100,000 that will go a long way in helping to make their dreams of breaking ground on a new state-of-the-art athletic field a reality.
Principal David Estes and several student athletes received the gift, presented in the form of a giant check, from Bishop Tobin Tuesday morning in his office at the Chancery.
“We’re very proud of The Prout School and we’re very grateful for all the good work that’s going on there in many ways, of course with the athletic program, but also with the cultural programs, the arts and science, everything you’re doing,” Bishop Tobin told the delegation, noting how everything that the school does with God at its center serves to reinforce its Catholic identity.
“That’s the primary reason for The Prout School and for all of our other schools — to strengthen our faith and hand on the faith to other people,” he added.
“You’re a very important part of our diocesan family and we’re grateful for what you’re doing,” Bishop Tobin said.
“The new athletic field will be a wonderful addition to all the athletic programs at Prout.”
During the season of giving the donation was a show of support by the diocese for a school initiative that seeks to transform Prout in growing its community by providing local student-athletes with first rate facilities in which to compete.
“We’re very grateful for this gift because Bishop Tobin has supported this project from the very beginning,” Estes said. “We’re deeply appreciative for this generosity.”
The generous gift is just one of many ways the diocese has shown its support for the school, including the assigning of a priest chaplain — Father Carl Fisette — to the campus, the principal said.
Heather Mayo, who serves as co-chair of the campaign, known as The Prout School Turf Field Initiative, along with fellow Prout parent Seana Edwards, feels that the pace to groundbreaking has quickened thanks to the strong show of support by the diocese for the project.
“With the support of the bishop I think this project is really going to move forward fast because this is a huge gift for the school and I think a lot of people will follow suit now,” Mayo said.
“It will literally change the game. I really think we could become the LaSalle of the south. Students won’t just drive by Prout anymore, they will decide to go to Prout,” she added, noting how a modern field with all the accoutrements offered by other schools with top athletic programs will attract local students seeking to play lacrosse, soccer and field hockey while getting a first rate education.
Since the first all-girls class graduated from Prout in 1969, the school’s athletic program has grown by leaps and bounds. Today, 62 percent of the school’s now coed student body participate in at least one sport each year.
Prout athletes presently have access to just one field on campus, a natural grass field which is heavily used in both the fall and spring.
The proposed artificial turf field will measure 195 feet wide by 330 feet long and will be suitable for lacrosse, field hockey and soccer to start with. It will offer seating for 500-600 spectators in a fenced perimeter with safety netting and will feature Musco Sports brand field lighting and a digital scoreboard.
Including the diocesan grant, Prout has so far raised $550,000 of the overall $2.3 million needed to complete the project.
Nicole Kelly, who has been working for several years to bring the project to fruition, said that Prout hopes to begin groundbreaking on the new field this spring.
Several student athletes in attendance for the presentation were excited to see the positive impact the project is having on their school.
“We’re very appreciative of how generous the bishop and the diocese have been for us,” said junior Aidan O’Neil.
“This is really going to have a huge impact on our school in a very positive way.”
Although, Zachary Bowe, a senior, wouldn’t have a chance to play upon the new field and improve upon the amazing 1,200 yards he racked up this season as captain of Prout’s coop football team, he says that for Prout to eventually be able to field a team of its own, on its home field — complete with lights — would add the school’s Crusaders to the pantheon of top teams in the state that are synonymous with the sport.
“The field legitimizes the sport, I think, and would especially give football a home base at Prout,” he said.
Playing football, or any other sport, under the lights at night helps to put not just the players, but the school, in the limelight, raising its stature.
Instead, this past season, Prout played many of its football games at Exeter-West Greenwich at 11 a.m. on Saturdays, as that field was not equipped with lighting.
“That adds to the fact that nobody was coming to see us play,” Bowe said.
Ellie Edwards, a sophomore lacrosse player, said that even for those who choose not to play a sport at Prout, having a modern athletic field will help to foster a greater sense of community.
“I think with the generous gift from the bishop this will mean a lot for Prout. Even if some students are not playing sports they can still go there to watch the games after school,” she said. “It will bring a better sense of community to the school.”
Junior Stella Mayo, who also plays on the Prout lacrosse team, already sees the benefits of a community growing ever closer together as they all push forward together to make the longstanding dream of a true, modern home field a reality.
“I think that with the field Prout is just getting better and better, and everything is starting to click. It is bringing everyone here together,” she said.
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