Foundation for faith-filled education
Catholic Schools Week, Jan. 31 to Feb. 6, is the annual celebration of catholic education in the United States. In observance of the week, catholic schools across the nation will celebrate with fun, themed days highlighting aspects of catholic education, Masses, open houses and service projects.
“Catholic Schools week is one of the highlights of the entire school year,” says Rebecca Stone, assistant principal at Saints Francis & Clare Catholic School. “It’s something the students look forward to and the staff as well. It brings to the forefront of everyone’s mind, after you’ve been in school an entire semester, why we do what we do. Everyone is celebrating catholic schools at the same time. It’s nice that it brings us all together. It’s a lot of fun but it’s also an opportunity for us to put our faith in each one of those days.
This year’s theme is “Catholic Schools: Communities in Faith, Knowledge and Service.” To recognize the contributions that these schools bring to the community, this issue of The Southside Times highlights what is happening in schools that serve the area and how it is meaningful for teachers and students.
“It’s one of my favorite weeks,” said Central Catholic School Principal Kelly England. “I’ve been in catholic education for 20 years. We have so much to be proud of as a catholic school. This week gives us permission to celebrate that. What’s special about this year is Pope Francis named this year as a year of mercy, so we have focused more on service projects and how we show mercy in our families, in our schools and our communities.”
To learn more about the week, visit ncea.org/our-services/catholic-schools-week.
Gina Fleming, Superintendent of Catholic Schools, Archdiocese of Indianapolis
In Indiana, we are blessed to offer parental educational choice in a way that once was simply a dream. I am grateful to the many legislators, educators and active citizens who have worked together to ensure educational choice for families. Outstanding public, private and charter school options are available to families regardless of income. In central and southern Indiana, the Archdiocese of Indianapolis is humbled to offer quality Catholic education in 69 unique communities, and we invite all who desire a holistic approach to their children’s growth and development to explore the many Catholic school options that exist.
This week we celebrate National Catholic Schools Week, a time when our Catholic Church and her schools highlight the value Catholic education provides to young people, their families, our communities and our nation. I recall my own fourth grade year at Holy Name Catholic School in Beech Grove. We were gearing up for all of the festivities of the week – celebrating Mass, playing Bingo and being out of uniform for five days in a row! In the busyness of finding patriotic colors to wear one day and funny socks to wear another, my mother noticed my incessant scratching and obvious rash. Though I tried to deny it, there was no way around it – I had the chicken pox and would not be going to school for the week! I was devastated. This was going to be the most exciting week of the entire year and I was going to miss out. No “twin day” with my best friend, no community prayer service or skating party, and no volleyball game between the eighth graders and staff.
Sometimes missing out on something so anticipated makes one appreciate it even more. This was the case for me; I realized that I really loved going to school and celebrating my faith every day. It was not really about dressing up or getting out of Science class to play games. I was blessed to attend a Catholic school where our faith was lived each and every day, modeled by staff, taught through word and action, and nurtured throughout my academic career.
My hope is that all who experience our Catholic schools take advantage of their daily opportunities to pray, to learn, to serve, and to love. My hope is that our youth and their families recognize our Catholic schools for the beacons of hope and light that they are, and that our administrators, teachers and staff members continue to embrace their calling to bring others closer to God in all endeavors. And my hope is that parents who are seeking a school that not only boasts academic rigor, safety and a healthy family atmosphere but also a commitment to the spiritual, intellectual, social, emotional and physical growth of each individual investigate the Catholic school options in their area. We welcome the opportunity to share in this great ministry with all who are committed to the mission of coming to know, love and serve God more fully…whether we are in uniforms or funny socks, studying or playing volleyball, serving in the community or attending a school skating party. We welcome each of you to celebrate Catholic Schools with us this week and always.
Central Catholic School
Principal Kelly England said Central Catholic School has a great tradition of meeting students where they are and helping them grow in educational and spiritual achievements.
The school, located at 1155 Camerson St. in Indianapolis, has 218 students. Enrollment is up, which England said is partially due to the state voucher program. Since the school generally serves a lower income population, the voucher program has allowed for more families to choose catholic school when they otherwise could not afford it.
England said parents choose the Central for “the catholic foundation that we provide, the spiritual growth and helping students develop their faith and all of the basic skills. We have a dedicated staff here that goes above and beyond. We have a lot of school spirit here. You’ll see that in our spirit days, on sports teams or when we have family nights. You can tell it’s more of a community than just a school.”
“Our students are incredibly generous when it comes to service,” she said. “Whether it’s bringing in baby items for the Right to Life or canned food for the food pantry, they are always ready and willing to help. That’s an extension of their families. It shows how generous our families can be when they see there is a need in our community.”
England said they started a Power Hour program in January to help tutor students after school, which will help meet the individual needs of each student. They added a Resource teacher this school year, working directly with students in special education.
“Reading is a big part of our mission, creating and developing readers,” England said. “Even students who come to us older than kindergarten come to us with gaps in their knowledge base. We have an increasing ENL (English as a New Language) population. English is their second language. That’s why we take so much pride in our reading and language arts program. We have been able to take students who speak very little English and to see those students as middle schoolers really shining (is gratifying).”
Anna Mattingly and Jaydon Nguyen, eighth grade
Eighth grade classmates Anna Mattingly and Jaydon Nguyen said Central Catholic is a great school to attend.
“We have good teachers that make it fun even when it’s hard,” Nguyen said. He came to the school in fifth grade. “They prepare you a lot for when you grow up that my other school didn’t do. There are more rules and it’s harder. I like it when I’m challenged more.”
Nguyen, of Beech Grove, is involved in basketball at the school. Mattingly, of Indianapolis, is involved in volleyball. She has attended the school since kindergarten and said she enjoys friendships with her classmates the most.
Anna Springman, Resource teacher
For any teacher, it’s fulfilling when students have that “ah-ha moment.” It’s something Anna Springman said she gets to see a lot, whether students are doing something academically or in a service project.
As Resource teacher Springman works with students with special needs at Central Catholic School. With approximately 10 students and room for the program to grow, she said she’s enjoyed going into different classrooms and working with children who need help the most.
“It’s allowed me a different perspective,” she said. “It’s nice to see what other teachers are doing as well and broaden my own ideas for teaching. Every day is different. You definitely have to learn to be flexible.”
Springman, currently a Greenwood resident, attended St. Mark Catholic School as a child. She went through a program at the University of Dayton which placed her at Central Catholic seven years ago.
“I loved the community aspect of a catholic school,” she said. “A big part of it was my own catholic school upbringing. It’s like a family. Everyone looks out for each other and cares about each other. It goes beyond the academics. I love being in a school where I feel like I know every student’s name.”
Holy Name of Jesus Catholic School
Holy Name of Jesus Catholic School Principal Christine Williams said it’s incredible to be in a school that is committed not only to academic growth of its students, but the holistic wellbeing of each child.
“We have a one of the most incredible teaching staffs that I have ever had the chance to work with,” Williams said. “It is great being in a place that you love coming to work every day. That trickles down to our families and students as well. It creates a very loving atmosphere. Parents can send their kid to Holy Name knowing we care about the body, mind and soul. We will do everything we can to prepare students not just for this life, but for the next.”
Williams said the second semester of school is always full of exciting events, particularly for the eighth graders who will be leaving for high school after the school year concludes. The eighth grade class recently took a trip to Washington D.C. where they toured holy sites and participated in the March for Life.
Holy Name, located at 89 N. 17th Ave., Beech Grove, has 290 students, with eight consecutive years of growth.
“Our staff (members) as a whole are perfectionists and we’re always looking at what we can do better,” she said. “We’re always willing and wanting to do what we can to constantly improve. We’re committed to continued improvement and our families see that.”
Claire Wagner, seventh grade
Seventh grade student Claire Wagner said the positive atmosphere at Holy Name of Jesus Catholic School makes going to school fun.
“All of the teachers are very encouraging so that helps with all of the work we’re given,” she said. “Here we can express our faith. We aren’t afraid to talk about what we believe. Not everyone who comes here is catholic so we still get different perspectives from other students, but we come together at the end of the day.”
Wagner, who came to Holy Name in second grade, is involved in basketball, volleyball and kickball at the school. She said she enjoys social events that the school hosts. When it comes to school, she said she enjoys both religion and social studies classes.
“In religion, I like our teacher sister Nicolette. She doesn’t just use the book,” she said. “She gives us stories, we have prayer time and write in our journal. In social studies, I get a lot of information on what’s going on currently which helps me outside of the school.”
She said she hopes to go into the Navy when she’s older, and then possibly go to work with her dad at his business, Wagner Signs.
Liz Blazekovich, second grade teacher
When choosing a place to teach, Liz Blazekovich said she knew she wanted a place where she could practice her faith and share in that experience with her colleagues and students.
“I am able to spend time praying with them, growing with them and developing their wellbeing in a well-rounded way,” she said. “This is my second home. It’s fulfilling that I have such a strong support system in my colleagues and in my priest.”
Blazekovich has taught at Holy Name for seven years. She grew up attending public schools then attended St. Joseph College. She said she enjoys everything she gets to teach her second graders, such as the sacraments.
“It puts a new twist on every single year,” she said. “The kids are such sponges when they come home from Christmas break, to grasp the concept of the Eucharist. I look forward to first communion in May. I love Catholic Schools Week. It’s one of my favorite weeks. It’s fun and different. It gets the kids to see Catholicism in a different perspective. It’s coming together as a whole school in different ways, talking about why catholic schools are important to us in a more widespread sense.”
Nativity Catholic School
Nativity Catholic School, 3310 S. Meadow Dr. in Franklin Township, provides a community for students, helping them grow in their faith and academics where they can feel at home.
“You can get good academics at most every school,” said Principal Terri Bianchini. “There’s a strong sense of faith here, and a strong sense of community. All of our parents know each other. The kids know there’s an almost daily communication with parents and teachers. Father Pat and I greet the parents every day outside. It’s a very close-knit community with like values and like expectations.”
Enrollment has continually increased for the school, with 411 students enrolled this year. The biggest challenge for the 4-star school, Bianchini said, is to balance academic achievements and growth to maintain its top scoring marks.
This coming school year, Nativity will initiate a program called Leader in Me, theleaderinme.org. The program allows students to set leadership and life goals for themselves and track their achievements throughout the week.
“It’s a whole culture change in the school, making sure you’re students are the leaders they should be,” Bianchini said. “It’s a program that we bring in and we build upon each year. A lot of teacher development and professional development goes into it. Next year is our first year. Because our kids are achieving at such a high level, we looked at where can we go from here? Leader in Me makes it so the whole school uses the same language. This is our big focus for maintain our academic growth.”
Grace Whitaker, eighth grade
Nativity Catholic School eighth grader Grace Whitaker aspires to be an engineer when she’s older – or a neurosurgeon. Either way, she said the academics at her school are preparing her for a future her career of choice.
“I like math a lot,” she said. “Our eighth grade math teacher, Mr. English, is teaching us more at the ninth grade math level to help us in high school. He explains things really well. He keeps us entertained but never strays too far from the topic. He’s a great teacher and it helps me enjoy math.”
Whiteaker is one of four Nativity students who performed in the Top 10 of the Roncalli High School placement test. She is involved in many extracurricular activities at the school, including basketball, volleyball, archery and other clubs. She said she also enjoys attending Mass while at school.
“I like how we can openly discuss our religion,” she said. “The religion classes help me understand our religion, too.”
Marissa Gaya, fourth grade teacher
For fourth grade teacher Marissa Gaya, her faith is what’s most important in her life.
“I knew that, even though I love teaching academics, to me it’s more important to teach children to love Jesus and follow him,” she said. “I knew I wanted to be at a place where that was the main focus.”
Growing up, Gaya attended St. Barnabas Catholic School and Roncalli High School. This is her fourth year teaching at Nativity Catholic School. She said she enjoys working with the staff at the school, and watching as the students continue to excel academically.
“The school community and the Christian atmosphere that is here when you walk in the door makes it a welcoming place to be,” she said. “To see the kid grow in their faith is super rewarding.”
Gaya said one of her favorite things to do in class is listen to Christian songs or read Bible passages and allow students to journal about it.
“The kids are really insightful about what they write, even as fourth graders. It’s been awesome to see how much deeper they go throughout the year in their understanding and in their faith walk.”
Our Lady of the Greenwood Catholic School
Our Lady of the Greenwood Catholic School Principal Kent Clady said he asks the school staff each week, “What are we doing to make sure we’re making this a product for parents to want to invest in?” It’s important that the school has a high level for academics, but Clady said it’s the faith-piece that sets the school forward.
OLG, located at 335 S. Meridian St., Greenwood, serves 376 children in kindergarten through eighth grade. That number has remained steady, but Clady said the demographics have changed with the school becoming much more diverse.
“The diversity of our population changing has caused us to look at things differently and how things are presented to our families,” he said. “That’s caused us to look a little differently at our communication, how each teacher is making sure she is reaching each student effectively. It’s been a positive for the kids and families, to be able to open our eyes and see what’s going on around them.”
OLG implemented a five-year technology plan, now in its third year. The students all have Chromebooks, the school has converted its stationary computer lab and has mobile labs with electronics so all students have a chance to work with these devices.
“We feel like we’re meeting the needs of our kids moving forward, not only giving them the Google platform, but giving them a traditional setting as well as virtual. The next year, we look to continue the technology. We want to make sure we’re using the tools to the best of our abilities.”
OLG will host an Open House on Feb. 4, 6 – 7 p.m. Enrollment begins Feb. 1. For more information on OLG, visit ol-g.org or call (317) 881-1300.
Gretchen Guerrettaz, eighth grade
Eighth grader Gretchen Guerrettaz said she loves everything about going to school at Our Lady of the Greenwood, from the extracurricular activities she’s involved in to the teachers.
“I love how everyone is really close,” she said. “It’s like one big happy family and everyone loves each other.”
Guerrettaz has attended OLG since preschool, along with her three siblings. She is involved in choir, kickball, volleyball, track, basketball, golf and said she looks forward to the spring musical, Lion King in February during Catholic Schools Week.
As she prepares to finish the eighth grade this semester and go to Roncalli High School in the fall, she said she feels prepared for her future.
“I’m going to miss Our Lady of Greenwood,” she said. “I’m also ready to graduate. OLG has prepared (me) to take the next step to becoming a better person going into high school. OLG has definitely made me grow stronger in my faith. I made such good friends here. I’m ready to graduate even though I love my family here.”
Allison Boehm and Megan Hillstrom, fourth grade teachers
Fourth-grade teachers, Megan Hillstrom and Allison Boehm have taught at Our Lady of the Greenwood for five years, supporting each other’s classrooms in any way they can.
“They just have this magic together that is incredible,” said Principal Kent Clady. “When you think about one, you can’t not think about the other.”
Hillstrom, of Greenwood, went to St. Barnabas Catholic grade school. Boehm, of Perry Township, went to Holy Name of Jesus Catholic School. Both went to Roncalli High School, graduating in 2005. Boehm attended IUPUI and Hillstrom went to University of Southern Indiana. After college, they both taught at Clark Pleasant Elementary School for a year before coming to OLG.
“When I was looking for jobs, this one popped up,” Boehm said. “It seemed like a good fit. I was excited to give back to Catholic School.”
Hillstrom agreed, saying “It’s been a good place to be. It’s nice to get back to your roots a little bit.”
Boehm said they look forward to the many activities that OLG hosts, including fundraisers for different causes such as support for Haiti. The teachers said that being able to include prayer throughout the day is gratifying for them.
“It’s being able to share your faith with your students,” Boehm said. “Most of them enjoy religion as their favorite subject.”
Roncalli High School
If you watch as students walk through the doors of Roncalli High School, you might be surprised by their demeanor, said Principal Chuck Weisenbach. The students are happy to come to school.
“It’s a positive, life-giving environment that they enjoy,” Weisenbach said.
Roncalli High School, located at 3300 Prague Rd., Indianapolis, is the only catholic high school to serve the South Deanery. Weisenbach said there are a number of things that make Roncalli a wonderful place to receive an education.
He said he believes the students at Roncalli genuinely appreciate the value of prayer in their lives. The level of accountability placed on both students and staff has been rewarding as they continue to see their work transform into student success after graduation.
“We’ve been able to generate a culture that fosters religious vocations to the priesthood, to religious life,” he said. “I say that based on the number of our graduates, the last 10 years especially, who are now ordained priests, religious women or serving in the missionary fields. That’s a little of a countercultural call to society today.”
Weisenbach said Roncalli has seen 25 years of slow, steady growth. Enrollment bottomed out in 1988, with a little more than 600 students. There are currently 1,250 students enrolled.
“There seems to be a growing number of people who would like a faith-based education for their child,” he said. “The level of excellence we’ve been able to establish is already proven. We’ve worked hard and we are able to offer a high-quality academic experience. We meet the needs of all children that come in. I think people are attracted to that.”
Weisenbach said a challenge to education today is technology, how quickly it changes and how to best use it as an educational took.
“You have to be careful with technology,” he said. “Are you doing this for the effect, so your community has a good feeling, or to be effective?”
In 2016, Roncalli will prepare for another capital campaign that will allow the school to expand its campus and services.
“Nothing is definitively stated, but it looks like we would be moving to building another gym/fieldhouse, continuing to add classrooms to our structure and building our endowment so we can ensure this education to our kids in the future,” Weisenbach said.
Kate Myers, senior
As Roncalli High School Senior Kate Myers is deciding on which college to attend, she said she feels that her catholic education has allowed her to excel throughout school.
“I like the family aspect that it involves,” she said. “It’s great that we can come together and share in our faith and our beliefs. I think Roncalli does an excellent job of making everyone feel at home.”
Myers, who attended St. Barnabas catholic grade school, is currently involved in the student council, drama club, Spanish club, pro-life club, dance captain of the show choir and participates in the school’s musicals. She was on the dance team her first two years of high school. She plans to study dance and physical therapy in college, choosing between Purdue University, Penn State or Marymount Manhattan College.
“Roncalli has been a great school for me to go to,” she said. “I feel very prepared to leave here and going into college, wherever that might be. They definitely prepare you for academics but they allow you to grow spiritually. We all have different opportunities to help us.”
Michelle Roberts, Life Academy coordinator
Michelle Roberts said she loves teaching students at the Life Academy at Roncalli, a program for students with cognitive disabilities, helping them learn and become independent thinkers and problem solvers. Like any program in the school, she said it’s not just about the academics but helping them to grow in their faith journey as well.
“It’s exciting to be a part of a program for students with disabilities in a catholic school,” Roberts said. “It was a new challenge. Having a tradition of catholic school in my own family, it’s an important part of who I am. I stay here because I am able to work in a place where the administration, the board of directors care about me as a whole person. That’s a great environment to spend 40 hours a week.”
Roberts grew up on the Indianapolis Northside, attending Bishop Chatard High School and later Indiana University. She earned her Master’s degree at Indiana Wesleyan. She started her career in special education for public schools, and then helped St. Roch Catholic School develop a resource program. She took 10 years off from work to stay home with her children. She was hired as Roncalli’s special education coordinator in 2009.
“We’re allowing catholic families to have a choice,” she said “The students in the Life Academy are able to go to the same school their siblings go, where their parents went. It’s a big deal for students with these sorts of disabilities who probably couldn’t go to the catholic grade schools but can attend Roncalli. Because Roncalli has this program, some of the grade schools are looking to do this as well. We’re kind of leading the South Deanery and expanding what we are able to offer to catholic families.”
The Life Academy currently has six students, and can accept up to 10. She said the students spend part of the day with all of Roncalli’s students in the classrooms, and the other part in classes geared toward their abilities. Juniors and seniors work with businesses to gain work experience that better prepares them for their future.
Saints Francis & Clare Catholic School
Enrollment at Saints Francis & Clare Catholic School, 5901 Olive Branch Rd., Greenwood, has increased consistently since the school opened nine years ago. With 570 students from infants to eighth grade, Assistant Principal Rebecca Stone said they continue to work on academic and spiritual education while providing an atmosphere that supports happy families.
“It’s a big school as far as catholic schools go, but we want to maintain that small school feeling,” she said. “That doesn’t happen accidentally. It happens because we have a lot of people working to make it feel like a family.”
Saints Francis & Clare opened an Early Childhood Learning Center in the fall, currently taking infants to children in preschool. Eventually that building will have classrooms for the kindergarteners.
The school is currently accepting students for its 2015-16 school year. For more information, call (317) 215-2826 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. The school will enter its 10th year in the fall.
“As we continue to have more graduates from eighth grade going to Roncalli and Center Grove, we’re always excited to see what our students can accomplish,” Stone said. “That’s something that’s still new to us. Be it their academic successes, successes in plays and the arts, I’m always excited to see what they come back and do.”
Elliana Aleski, eighth grade
Eighth grader Elliana Aleski credits Saints Francis & Clare to her academic successes since she came to the school three years ago.
“Before I was at this school, I was a mediocre student. Once I came to this school, I blossomed and was able to perform better. It helped me in all areas. It helped me raise my grade and everything.”
Aleski is involved in the school’s archery club, choir, cross country and currently in volleyball. She aspires to be a veterinarian, having been raised on a small farm and enjoying working with the animals.
She said that goal is supported by Saints Francis and Clare, as every teacher goes out of their way to help make sure she is doing the best she can in academics and life outside of the classroom.
“The best thing about Catholic School is the overall community setting,” she said. “Everyone goes out of their way to help everybody in their times of need. I believe a catholic school is more personalized. You can participate in things public schools may not include such as prayers in the morning or being able to go to Mass every morning.”
Bradley Doherty, middle school math teacher
Having experienced both catholic and public education in his school-age years, Greenwood resident Bradley Doherty said when he went to student teach at a catholic school it reaffirmed his desire to teach in a catholic school setting. He was hired to Saints Francis & Clare four years ago, teaching middle school math.
“What is fulfilling is being able to not necessarily provide answers, but at least have discussions with middle schoolers as they are becoming young adults,” he said. “It’s being able to have discussions with them about their spirituality and about their futures, how God and the community of believers that we surround ourselves with play a role in their lives and their journey.”
St. Barnabas Catholic School
St. Barnabas Catholic School Principal Debbie Perkins said she sees happy children coming to and from the school every day. It’s a sign that the staff and faculty are doing their jobs in providing a well-rounded education to the students.
“Parents send us with the most precious thing they have, and we take that seriously,” she said. “Their kids walk out of here every day happy, safe and knowledgeable.”
St. Barnabas, located at 8300 Rahke Rd. in Perry Township, has 532 students enrolled.
Perkins said the school continues to build on its opportunities available to the students. St. Barnabas became a branch of the Indianapolis Public Library last year, allowing students to have a greater access to books they want to read. The music program is a strong asset for the school, with 90 students participating in the choir at the weekly Mass. This year, Perkins said they plan to strengthen their STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) program, integrating it into classes more often.
“I’m really proud of the opportunities that our students have and the ways that they take advantage of those opportunities,” Perkins said. “Our number one focus is they grow in their faith. They show us in so many ways that they’re doing that. Our focus is they grow academically. We see their hard work coupled with their teacher’s hard work. There is a culture of learning that is present.”
Joseph Carper and Maria Mina, eighth grade
Hard work is a two-way street. Eighth grade students Joseph Carper and Maria Mina said what they enjoy about attending school at St. Barnabas is it’s evident that the teachers work hard in their jobs, which encourages the students to put in that same amount of effort.
“I think there is a sense of motivation created by the teachers and members of the parish around the school that work here and in service,” Carper said. “That sense of motivation enables people to be the best version of themselves.”
Carper is involved in volleyball, basketball and will perform in the school play. Mina is also involved in the play, as well as the choir and volleyball.
“At St. Barnabas we get a full school experience,” Mina said. “The thing that motivates me is how open the teachers are and how easy they are to talk to. The teachers are really there for you and know you personally so you get more individualized learning. You are able to incorporate your faith in your daily life and that affects how you perform in school.”
Doug Bauman, middle school math teacher
Doug Bauman grew up in catholic school and said his catholic identity is a huge part of who he is as a person. Having graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in secondary math education and a Master’s in pastoral theology, he said he knew he wanted to teach where he could provide the same opportunity that he had to grow in his faith.
“Catholic education is at heart and soul of that opportunity,” he said. “The real push is the faith dimension. The students here through a lot of different avenues are given the opportunity to express who they are as Catholics.”
He said it’s gratifying to attend Mass at St. Barnabas Church on a Saturday and see former students return to lead the student choir in the musical accompaniment.
Bauman taught at Roncalli before coming to St. Barnabas to teach middle school math.
“All the math aside, the most fulfilling part for me is watching the students grow as young catholic people, as a faith-filled, spirit-filled young person that leaves St. Barnabas with a desire to grow in their faith and in their relationships with God and each other,” he said. “Academics are one of our main objectives here but our mission is to form these students as good, productive, kind, Christian young people.”
St. Jude Catholic School
Whether it’s a holiday or a service project, Principal Joe Shelburn said the spirit at St. Jude Catholic School is unmatched.
In the first semester, more than 200 students participated in a Saturday night Mass for Our Lady of Guadalupe, rivaling the size of a Christmas or Easter Mass. The school held a Penny War to put a roof on a church in Haiti and raised more than $4,000 in coins.
“It is like nothing I’ve seen at any school because our people know how to put on events,” Shelburn said. “I’m certainly proud of the community that exists here. There is an outstanding parish community but a subset of that is certainly a strong school community. We have parents and teachers that are dedicated to making this a special place. It’s obvious they care about the success of the school.”
St. Jude, located at 5347 McFarland Rd. in Perry Township, has 499 students, with steady enrollment as the school is full.
Shelburn said they’re proud of consistently earning high academic recognitions and achievements, which presents them with a challenge of finding opportunities for the students to continue to grow and excel. Shelburn said St. Jude will soon place a new emphasis on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) initiatives and will look at additional programing for top performing students.
“Education is a big piece, but it’s about the whole child.,” Shelburn said. “We offer an opportunity for our young people to be formed as human beings. We care so much beyond an education. We care about the individual child and all facets of their life. Our mission is to prepare kids to be the kind of people we hope them to be in the future.”
Zachary Mayer, eighth grade
Going to school at St. Jude makes for a new experience every day, said eighth grade student Zachary Mayer.
“We get to do lots of fun things other schools don’t get to do,” he said. “(I like) getting to talk about God and sharing my faith with fellow classmates and teachers. All of the teachers are just wonderful. They make learning fun and different every day.”
Mayer is on the speech team, plays volleyball, runs track and cross country and said he looks forward to the upcoming school play. He said he aspires to go into the medical field or do something relating to animals, for which the academics at St. Jude are helping prepare him.
“Our science teacher likes to teach a lot of different stuff that sophomores at Roncalli are doing right now, to give us a taste of what we might want to do when we grow up,” he said.
Sally Meyer, sixth grade teacher
In her 30th year of teaching at St. Jude Catholic School, Sally Meyer said she stands by the tenet of Saint Mother Theodore Guerin who wrote, “Love the children first, then teach them.”
“Kids know if you care,” Meyer said. “I’m sure mother Theodore had it right. Once you capture them, and they know that you care about them, then they will work for you; they’ll learn for you. The teachers do a good job here of loving the kids.”
Meyer resides in Perry Township. Having a public school background, she said her desire to teach in a catholic school came while attending Marian University, in the music ministry.
She said she has enjoyed her career at St. Jude, where a majority of the teachers stay for long durations. She said she feels the teachers do a good job at adapting their religious lessons to demonstrate what’s going on in the world, having a longer-lasting impact on the students.
“I like to think that maybe I’m planting some seeds that will help for generations to come,” she said. “We don’t always see the impact right away. I like to think that, at least for some kids, I’m making a difference. I like to be part of their spiritual growth. I like to watch from wherever their starting and watch where they grow spiritually.”
St. Mark Catholic School
St. Mark Catholic School principal Rusty Albertson has spent 27 years in education and said he’s never been to a place where parents are more involved in their children’s education than at St. Mark, at 541 E. Edgewood Ave., in Perry Township. As the school grows in size each, he said they continue to focus on high academic standards while putting faith first and foremost.
“The biggest thing we’re proud of is our staff, students and parents ability to grow together in their faith,” Albertson said. “That’s the number one reason parents send their children to faith-based, Catholic or Christian school. We provide the opportunity for them to do that with mass, Eucharistic adoration, reconciliation, sacraments that allow our kids, catholic or not, to grow in their faith.”
With 265 students enrolled at the school, Albertson said 37 percent are minority, nearly 17 percent of students from the Burmese community.
“We represent our community,” he said. “It looks like a melting pot around here. We’re happy to represent that in our school and our parish.”
St. Mark continues to focus on building its technology program, and is nearly one-to-one with every student having access to Google Chromebooks, which are kept at the school. The staff has also increased expectations for students pertaining to service projects, and encourages the children to give back in any way they can.
“The biggest challenge is to get everything in,” Alberton said. “It’s more than reading, writing and arithmetic. We stress the academic fundamentals but we have so much more that goes on in this school. Our hands aren’t tied. We can speak about our faith. I meet with every set of parents when they come in. I tell them if they’re child has grown in their faith and comes closer to God, we’ve done our job.”
Jack Stonecipher, sixth grade
Sixth grader Jack Stonecipher came to St. Mark Catholic School three years ago, transferring from a public school in Plainfield. He says he’s enjoying his time at St. Mark, and all that going to a catholic school can provide.
“My favorite class is religion,” he said. “We get to spend more time with God and with our friends and really connect with Him. I like that we can express our faith and not be afraid that someone would come up to you and say stop.”
Stonecipher is involved in basketball and track at the school. He said he’s like to be an author when he grows up, writing fiction or sci-fi and traveling the world. For now, he’s enjoying learning all he can in school.
“I like the fact that the teachers here are very nice to us,” he said. “Sometimes they don’t give us enough homework and we can study more.”
Lauren Cline, assistant principal and technology teacher
As assistant principal and technology teacher, Lauren Cline said she enjoys sharing her faith with her students in both roles at St. Mark Catholic School. She went to catholic school on the Northside of Indianapolis through high school, and said it’s fulfilling to be on the other end, praying with students and watching them experience things for the first time.
“Watching the students grow in their faith from the time they start to the time they leave here is pretty special,” she said. “It’s neat to see them experience what I experienced as a child growing up.”
This is Cline’s first year to teach technology. She has been with St. Mark for seven years. She said the school is growing the technology program to allow every student to have access.
“My goal this year is to increase the use of technology in the classroom,” she said. “It helps them to engage the students. The students really enjoy the Chromebooks vs. textbooks. It is helping them to prepare them for the way technology changes in the world.”
St. Roch Catholic School
St. Roch Catholic School is rooted in its catholic identity, and Principal Joe Hansen said they are always looking at ways to get the word out about how special the school is.
“When you walk through these hallways, you see kids that are well behaved, that want to learn,” he said. “We have teachers that don’t just lecture; they try to meet the needs of all of our students. There is a lot of cooperative learning, project-based learning. It’s the environment and family atmosphere. That’s what always comes up about St. Roch when I give a tour.”
St. Roch has 288 students enrolled at the school, built in 1924 at 3603 S. Meridian St., Indianapolis.
Father James Wilmoth is in his 51st year as a priest and Hansen said he is an integral part of the school. Hansen said the school offers hands-on learning as often as possible, such as a recent partnership with the Indiana Science Initiative and Purdue University which sends prepackaged science experiments for eighth grade students. Three years ago they started a program called Arts for Learning which brings in artists from around Indianapolis into the middle school to teach. He said St. Roch is committed to academics continues through activities such as Academic Olympics, chess club, Spell Bowl and speech.
“It’s a challenge every day,” Hansen said. “I tell our kids to always look at challenges as opportunities. I like the challenge of meeting the kids where they are, taking them where they need to be and keeping my staff happy.”
Olivia Noone, eighth grade
Eighth grader Olivia Noone participates in many academic and sports activities for St. Roch Catholic School, but said it’s the opportunities that she has for service work that she really loves. She said she is grateful to attend a catholic school where she can do good for others while growing in her faith.
“It’s a family,” she said. “We all help each other out. To me that lightens the mood of going to school. It helps strengthen my faith. If I didn’t go to a catholic school, I wouldn’t have the knowledge of my faith, the strength that I have today. It’s great going to a catholic school and having that family that shares the same things you believe.”
Noone said while she never liked science much before, that’s an interest she’s gained this year as she participates in her eighth grade science classes.
“St. Roch has prepared me greatly,” she said. “I’ve been able to maintain good grades through the excellent teachers in middle school. They don’t hold back. They make sure you are ready for the high school and the challenges you will face. This school has been my family for the 9 years I’ve spent here. I couldn’t thank my teachers enough for the work they have put in to get me ready for high school.”
Julie Seevers, sixth – eighth grade science teacher
When searching for a place to teach, Julie Seevers said she looked for a school with strong leadership. She found that in St. Roch, with Principal Hansen and Father James Wilmoth. After touring the school and experiencing the environment within the building, she said she knew she was in the right place.
“The students here were enthusiastic about learning,” she said. “They want to be here and were appreciative about anything a staff member was doing for them. It blew me away my first year, that the students actually thank you after class. That’s something I feel makes St. Roch stand out.”
Seevers is in her second year teaching at St. Roch. Teaching science to sixth through eighth grade, she said the school is blessed to have a partnership with Purdue University which sends science kits for students to experiment with and learn about science first-hand.
“The most fulfilling thing when the students are sitting in your classroom, you can tell they are excited about what they are doing,” she said. “They show up with their A game and are ready to learn.”