For many parents, choosing a school for their children is a complex process. There are numerous factors to take into consideration, such as what type of education their child will receive at one school versus another, what specialty classes are offered, and the culture of the school. Most importantly, parents analyze the type of environment they would be putting their child in, and how the school will meet their needs so they can excel in their academic and personal growth.
Though Catholic schools may not receive the funding that is provided to their public counterparts, they do have just as much to offer, if not more. They have a unique advantage compared to anywhere else: community. The saying “It takes a village” holds true when it comes to providing students the tools and resources they need to succeed in their academics and personal enrichment — and the community within the schools and parishes come together to do just that. Jason Schiffli, Principal of Bishop Dwenger High School in Fort Wayne, has observed this first-hand throughout his 28 years in education. “Catholic schools have learned to be frugal over the many years they have been in existence. The teachers are very creative and resourceful … [they] have become experts at stretching the dollar and asking for donations,” said Schiffli. The community within and around Catholic schools is like no other. Of the students who attend, most are second-, third-,
or even fourth-generation attendees. “Whenever there is anything we need or need fixed, I am confident I can turn to our loyal alumni and current families for help,” said Schiffli.
While it is most important that Catholic schools succeed in producing academically strong students, it is fundamental that they produce spiritually strong students. Yes, having up-to-date technology, meticulously maintained facilities, and having the right amount of staffing are all tangible factors to academic success. However, students are more likely to succeed when they are in an environment that is inclusive and familial. Most Precious Blood Catholic School in Fort Wayne, though smaller than its sister schools in the diocese, makes a monumental impact in the lives of its students and families every day. “[We] provide a caring love for every single student,” said Principal Stanley Limpanoga. “It’s a holistic approach. When a student is having a bad day, we see that and we come together to help that student in any way we can. We’re like a family. We help each other.” This holistic approach is what helps students to become resilient, confident, and grow in their faith. Having that sense of community is what builds spirituality.
Schiffli sees this within the culture of Bishop Dwenger as well. “[Our] staff work tirelessly every day with students who need their help. They never complain because they genuinely serve their vocation as an act of love.”
This care and support for each student is unique in and of itself because Catholic schools are centered around providing a Christ-like educational experience. Teachers and staff emulate Christ and His teachings through every interaction, which makes for a more positive academic experience for students. Heather Sorg, Enrichment Teacher at St. Joseph – Hessen Cassel Catholic School in Fort Wayne, said, “Catholic education is great because we are able to talk about Jesus, go to Mass, incorporate faith into our lessons, and pray with our students. Jesus is the reason for our school.” These shared experiences make way for opportunities for students to exercise what they learn and to apply them to real-world experiences.
Catholic schools do not fall short of their public counterparts. If anything, they have more resources and offer more out of their curriculum. They utilize funds they are given from the state, private scholarships to help families pay tuition, and donations from attending families, alumni, and parishioners. Some schools even share teachers and combine sports teams. Most Precious Blood pairs up with Queen of Angels Catholic School in Fort Wayne to ensure there is an opportunity for their students to play football. They also share their art teacher with St. Therese Catholic School in Fort Wayne to ensure all students have the chance to learn art and have an outlet for self-expression as in any other school.
For parents considering sending their child to a Catholic school, Schiffli said, “Catholic schools produce young people who are more civically engaged and more committed to charities and service organizations that improve a community. They are critical thinkers, resilient, and understand the importance of family and the power of prayer.”
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