Ben Conroy dreams of being a sportscaster someday.
“I’m a very big fan of sports,” said the fifth-grader at St. Pius Tenth School in Chili. “And I like watching it on TV. I especially watch the people talking about sports.”
When the school hosted a Jan. 31 “Dress as What You Want to Be 20 Years From Now Day” to celebrate Catholic Schools Week, Ben knew exactly how he wanted to dress. In a navy suit jacket and tie, he carried a microphone prop into class.
When Principal Stephen Oberst asked Ben if he wanted to work for sports network ESPN, Ben simply replied no, pointing to the toy microphone’s call letters, WBEN.
“The students really have a lot of fun with these dress-up days,” Oberst later said. “Of course, they like it because it’s a day they don’t have to wear their uniforms, but they really have a chance to dream about the future, be creative and have fun.”
St. Pius Tenth held a week of fun events and assemblies as part of Catholic Schools Week, and this is the first time a day with a particular theme was planned. According to Oberst, a few teachers came up with the idea to get students involved.
“I have to be careful, because some of the teachers came in dressed as retired,” he laughed.
One such teacher was Sharon Stiegman, who also serves as vice principal. She wore a bathrobe with a big “Retired” sign.
“Everyone keeps telling me I should have had curlers in my hair too,” she added. “It’s been fun.”
In one sixth-grade class, Alexis Lillie wore an apron and had white flour on her face. She said she wanted to be a mother in 20 years.
“I want to have a normal life,” she said simply.
Other sixth-graders who dressed up were Hannah Osgood as a zoologist, Danielle Bleier as a horse rider and Matt Roorda as a limo driver. Tony Piccone wore a Duke University jersey and twirled a whistle.
“I want to be a Duke referee someday,” Tony declared. “I like to coach and I like to yell at people.”
In one fifth-grade class, Danielle Arieno wore a chef’s uniform. She said she hopes to own her own bakery.
“I like to eat, and I like decorating,” she said, adding that she’s still working on what her specialty might be.
Fifth-grader Megan Poirier wore professional-looking clothes, much like the teachers at the school.
“I want to be a teacher. I used to just like writing on a chalkboard, but now it’s more than that. I like school, and I think it’s fun,” Megan said.
Third-graders walking in the hallway represented NFL stars, doctors, magicians and even a pop star. Robert Grant wore a train engineer’s hat and red bandana.
“I love trains, and I want to learn all I can about them,” he said. “I like how fast they go. Trains are just my favorite.”
Regardless of the age, all the kids agreed that dressing up was fun, especially seeing all the other kids’ creativity.
For Oberst and Stiegman, they saw the day as a way for the school to show its pride and enthusiasm for Catholic schools. On a more serious note, Oberst also wants students and parents to realize the importance of attending a Catholic school, beyond the academics and report cards.
“I try to emphasize to our students that not only do we look at grades, but we also look at character development and work habits,” he explained. “These are areas that will determine whether they will be successful in life. They need to grow as individuals, to always be kind and willing to work hard.”
St. Pius Tenth, with 315 students in grades prekindergarten to sixth, promotes this by naming a Joseph Sardo student of the month. Joseph Sardo was St. Pius the Tenth’s real name prior to becoming pope.
“He’s a good role model for our students, and we try to reinforce those positive qualities of being cooperative, dependable and respectful, because our youth will need those characteristics in life,” Oberst said.
That theme, he added, is one that is promoted throughout the students’ years in Catholic education, not just during this one week.
“But it’s still important to have some fun too,” he said.