By NANCY CZABALA
SUMMERVILLE — “We honor every student,” reads the school’s bumper sticker. At Summerville Catholic it is stressed that students do the best that they can, emphasizing that everyone has their own gifts, according to Carole Ann White, principal.
This philosophy is why the school has not engaged in establishing an honor roll. White says some parents initially question why there is no honor roll, a traditional aspect of many schools. But she says, after explaining the concept behind the practice, parents find the idea to be worthwhile. It is also stressed that student’s needs are met on an individual basis in the classroom.
Competition among students, particularly in the kindergarten to fifth grades, is kept to a minimum. “There is so much competition in the world that at school we try to stress a community atmosphere, where peacemaking is the better option,” says White. The junior high students are introduced to competitive projects, such as Science Fairs, the Duke Scholarship program and Math Counts.
The junior high students have specialized teachers for each subject, and are offered excelerated classes, French and Algebra, in conjunction with the Bishop England High School program. Students who sign up for French make a commitment to be at class at 7:15 a.m. The school boasts above average scores in standardized testing compared to the diocesan average. Students are encourged to be an “active” agent in the learning process, as part of the school’s philosophy.
In honor of the Olympics, many classes are taking part in international studies. The first graders are studying foreign countries, making flags and designing costumes in traditional clothing. Parents, as guest speakers, have visited class to share their travel experiences and their knowledge of other nations. Traditional art and music lessons were also incorporated into the lessons.
The faculty creates a community atmosphere by having a prayer breakfast each week. This ritual, while creating a stong sense of community among the faculty, is also setting an example for students. The school engages students in the practice of morning prayer with a daily session at 8:20. Students process from their classrooms led by a banner, unique to each class, to the gathering area, where psalms and readings are heard by all. Daily petitions are also read at the prayer sessions. Youths may tell White who they would like prayed for that day, and parents often will call in to offer intentions as well. Everyone’s requests are posted on the prayer board, a reminder of the need for prayer. According to school objectives, the faculty tries to proclaim, explain and experience the vision and values of the Gospel with the students. In order to build a community everyone’s participation is required, so parent volunteers can be found everywhere on and off the campus. The school offers a varied sports program, which is completely run by parents. Money is raised for sports from fund raisers such as an annual quilt raffle and proceeds from candy bar sales. Members of the Home School Association, equivalent to other schools’ Parent/Teacher Association, can be found constantly around the school. They built the playground equipment, the picnic tables and plant extra flowers around campus.
The school also focuses on creating a value-added program within its community. Students are taught about “our call to help the needy,” according to White. On Thanksgiving, students bring in money that they would have spent for a hot lunch and donate it to a world hunger cause. The kids then eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches together and watch a film or are read a book on the subject of world hunger. The Thanksgiving Fast, rather than a Thanksgiving Feast, as they call it, helps to create an awareness of the needy.
Tag Day is another important awareness project and fund raiser. Children bring a quarter to school in exchange for not having to wear their uniforms. The money collected goes to a local cause, such as a homeless shelter, Habitat for Humanity or families in need. Recently money was given to a child in need of a kidney transplant and to the Elizabeth DeBoer Foundation, set up for a young man suffering from Cystic Fibrosis. These projects incorporate an important school objective: To promote responsible citizens both of the nation and of the world.
The school supports children from St. John the Beloved, Summerville; St. Thomas the Apostle, North Charleston; and St. Theresa the Little Flower, Summerville. Some students also come from Immaculate Conception in Goose Creek, and as far away as Cottageville parishioners from St. Anthony’s in Walterboro. Father David Schiller, St. Theresa; Msgr. Christopher Lathem, St. John; and Msgr. Edward Lofton from St. Thomas rotate celebrating the weekly Tuesday morning Mass with the faculty and students. Classes also rotate planning the liturgy, taking part in saying the readings and participating as altar servers.
Principal White summed up the school’s message, “God asks only that you do the best with what you have.”