Catholic schools around the diocese have reason to celebrate this month — Catholic Schools Week 2005 began Jan. 30 and ends Feb. 5. This annual, nationwide celebration recognizes the importance of Catholic schools and the intellectual, spiritual, moral, physical and social values they develop in their students, according to the National Catholic Educational Association.
Sponsored by the NCEA and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Catholic Schools Week became a national event in 1974. The theme of this year’s Catholic Schools Week is “Faith in Every Student,” and schools throughout the diocese have planned special events to showcase their Catholic-school spirit.
Staff at St. Michael’s School in Newark had planned several events for the week, including a Feb. 3 open house and a Feb. 4 student-vs.-staff volleyball game. The most exciting activity, however, was developed out of a desire to help others.
After the Dec. 26 tsunami that killed thousands in Southeast Asia, many of the school’s students, staff and parents began looking for a unique way to raise money for the victims. They eventually decided to hold an assembly Feb. 2, at which time the entire school would watch the principal spend 10 straight minutes shooting baskets for charity.
In the weeks leading up to the assembly, students were given pledge sheets and their friends, relatives and neighbors agreed to donate a certain amount of money for each basket the principal, Shannon Heller, made during a five-minute period. Heller said she will be shooting the baskets in an “around the world” style, shooting from different points on the court.
For the remaining five minutes, she’ll attempt to make as many baskets as possible from the half-court line, and several local businesses have pledged $50 for each successful attempt. All the money raised will go directly to UNICEF and be used to aid the tsunami’s victims, Heller said. Although there are many organizations collecting money for tsunami victims and disaster-relief efforts, the school chose UNICEF because the money will be used to help children, Heller added.
“It’s children helping children,” she said. “It’s all in the gear of giving to others and trying to show our school spirit.”
The students were excited about the assembly and their fundraising effort, she said. Many had watched her practice in the gym after school ended each afternoon, and the cheerleaders had prepared a special cheer for her.
Students at Corpus Christi School in Rochester were also excited about their Catholic Schools Week events, particularly a one-day student-exchange program. On Jan. 31, eight students in third- through sixth-grades were to take a bus to St. John of Rochester School in Fairport, while 10 students from that school were to be bused to Corpus Christi.
The student-visitors to each school were to stay from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m., sitting in on classes and lunch periods in the place of their absent counterparts. This exchange was designed to help students experience another Catholic school and to integrate, at least temporarily, urban- and suburban-school students, according to Kristi Rood, who helped organize the exchange.
When selecting students to participate, Rood, who is Corpus Christi’s social worker, chose students she thought were good role models, achieving good grades and making good choices. The students who were to be ambassadors from their schools took their responsibilities seriously, she said.
“They’re excited, but they’re nervous,” Rood said the week before the exchange. “I think they’re only nervous because it’s a different school. It’s going to be a whole new experience.”
Rood said she shared the students’ feelings, as she would also be spending the day at St. John of Rochester.
“I wanted to give my kids some support,” she explained.
St. Agnes School in Avon invited prospective kindergarten students and their families to a “Kindergarten Round-Up” Feb. 5, where the children could play with the “current kindergarten posse” and parents could learn more about the school from the principal and teachers.
St. Agnes and All Saints Catholic Academy in Gates each planned roller-skating parties for their students, while Holy Family School in Dansville and St. Charles Borromeo School in Greece scheduled ice-cream socials for their students. Students at St. Charles also planned to participate in Western Day, Crazy Sock Day and a school talent show. Holy Family students were also slated to enjoy an afternoon of snowy fun one day and go bowling in connection with a Knights of Columbus fundraiser the next.
Students in the fourth through eighth grades at St. Joseph’s School in Auburn were to personalize boxes, complete with snacks, and give them to their “buddies” in kindergarten through third grade. The school also designated Feb. 2 as “Nation Day” and planned to begin the morning with a classroom prayer service for soldiers. Meanwhile, Feb. 2 was to be “Good Sports Day” at St. Mary’s School in Canandaigua, and students were invited to wear jerseys from their favorite sports team. The next day, students were to participate in a multicultural luncheon, with each grade representing a different country.