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Celebrate Catholic Schools Week

| Thursday, January 29, 2015

It’s that time of year again. As schoolwork picks up pace after Christmas break and the winter drags on into February, the last week of January signals for Catholic school students nationwide a weeklong celebration of all the things that make Catholic schools unique. Back in my Catholic grade school days, Catholic Schools Week meant 50-cent Jeans Days (a welcome break from my much-loved and oft-worn plaid skirt), school-wide talent shows in our “Cafetornasium” (named for its ability to shift from lunchroom to auditorium to gymnasium at a moment’s notice), and a highly competitive “Best Classroom Decoration” contest (which once involved painting the Amazon River on the floor of the 8th grade classroom. In permanent paint. Sorry about that, Mrs. Jennings!).

Catholic Schools Week nowadays, as an intern with the Alliance for Catholic Education and a soon-to-be ACE Teacher with the ACE Teaching Fellows, holds even more meaning as I’ve grown to appreciate the unique opportunities and advantages that Catholic schools offer to students of every race, class and ability. There may not be any zany “spirit” days in the ACE office to celebrate Catholic Schools Week (unless you count “Hawaiian Shirt Fridays” which are already a year-long staple), but there is a constant dedication to the mission of Catholic education and a contagious enthusiasm for the good work of Catholic school teachers, leaders and students nationwide who, I believe, deserve our recognition this week.

Catholic grade schools and high schools throughout the country maintain an impressive record of success in the midst of the often negative narrative of education in the United States. Catholic schools diminish the achievement gap and lessen the effects of social class on school success. Latino and African-American students from underserved communities enrolled in Catholic school are 42 percent more likely to graduate from high school and college. Catholic school graduates are on average more likely to vote, more tolerant and more involved in community service. An amazing 99 percent of Catholic schools students graduate high school on time and 85 percent go on to attend college.

Despite what you might have heard about some schools closing, there is a sense of renewal and transformation in today’s Catholic schools, which continue decades worth of service to the nation’s most vulnerable populations. These schools are not only sacred centers of faith, but also centers of civic engagement and opportunity often missing from the disadvantaged neighborhoods that they serve.

Many of you attended Catholic schools before arriving at Notre Dame; certainly all of us currently enjoy an education centered around a Catholic ethos and dedicated to the education of the whole person: body, mind and spirit. In celebration of Catholic Schools Week this year, I invite you to celebrate with me by thanking a teacher from your past, finding out how you can get involved in supporting Catholic schools by visiting the ACE building (behind the Basilica) or just saying a quick prayer of thanks to those who make the University what it is for all of us. Notre Dame is a great Catholic school, and it should be celebrated this Catholic Schools Week.

Ashley Currey
Ryan Hall
Jan. 28

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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