MOUNT PLEASANT — Upon visiting Christ Our King/Stella Maris school, you can immediately see why people camp out to get their children registered to attend the Mount Pleasant school. The excitement among the faculty and volunteers is outwardly apparent.
For Catholic Schools Week their focus was to bring the school community together — a plan of action the school tries to follow on a daily basis. During the week, parents, enlisting the help of their families, wrote what Catholic schools mean to them. Their letters hang on a bulletin board in the front hall for all to read. Sister Stella Maris Craven, OLM, principal, said, “This project is about restoring faith in education.”
Teachers sponsor the kids in many events, encouraging creativity and a sense of pride in their abilities. Halls were lined with students working on science projects for the annual Science Fair, which helps to get parents involved in their children’s studies. The annual upcoming Art Fair will further stir the children’s creativity.
Music teacher, Mary Scholtens, is directing the students in this year’s Spring musical, “The Adventures of Lewis and Clark.” She said students participate in Jump Rope for Heart, which is co-sponsored by the Physical Education and Music departments, students get sponsors and the money they raise goes to charity. Scholtens helps students create jingles to jump to and puts music to the jingles, which helps kids learn how to read music.
Barbara Luby, a math teacher, is leading her students in the Math Fax Competition. So far, the seventh grade class is in first place in the Southeastern Division. She also teaches algebra, an advanced high school-level course. Students are currently working on famous mathematician reports, which will be presented to the school. The school’s website offers students suggested educational sites to help them on their reports, as well as with other school activities.
Sister Stella Maris says of the teachers, “They get along great and form a community, so that kids can observe what a sense of community should be like.”
Computers in every classroom, according to Sister Stella Maris, is more valuable than using one computer lab. This way students get exposure every day, and teachers can offer students who are slightly behind or ahead the chance to work at their level on the computer. Teachers also provide extra help on an individual basis to kids with additional needs.
Students can check by computer from the classroom if books are available in the library. Librarian Marcia Russo raves about the new library and media center. She said, “I’ve have kids who’ve gone on to high school, come back and ask for a particular book, because they couldn’t find it at their library.” A parent volunteer has set up a broadcasting system which links all the classrooms to the media center, allowing classes to get educational cable channels and watch videos on closed-circuit stations from the media center. Currently plans are in the works to have students tape daily announcements that would be viewed school-wide.
Kids get involved in the community through various school projects. Frequent trips are made to surrounding nursing homes, at which kids visit with residents and do their best to bring good cheer. The school choir has occasionally provided musical entertainment during these visits. For Christmas, classes adopted families and each student pitched in to buy presents for them.
The older kids in the school are encouraging forces for the younger kids. On Halloween the kindergartners parade through the halls of the school, being cheered on by on-looking students. Older grades frequently take time to read to younger grades. Fifth graders do their part by being paired with kindergartners as buddies; they play and work on projects together.
Msgr. James Carter, pastor at Christ Our King, Father James Dubrouillet, parochial vicar at Christ Our King, and Msgr. Lawrence McInerny, pastor at Stella Maris, all trade off celebrating weekly Mass with the students. Last year, Father Dubrouillet built a train track and raffled the set off at Christmas.
Parents, grandparents and other relatives devote much of their time to the students and the school. They read to students in the library, drive for field trips, help teachers and aid in the health clinic. Parents, teachers and interested parties have formed the Home and School Association, which helps members “acquire a profound appreciation of the ideals of a Catholic education,” according to their objectives. Fund-raising efforts by parents have been very successful. The largest fund-raiser is the selling of Christmas trees. The parent fund-raising committee has also held an October Bazaar for the past 46 years.
The school’s objectives include: to make known to each student the person and message of Christ, to develop in each student self-discipline, manners and respect for self and others and to help them develop their power of reason and critical thinking. The school community joins daily in a whole-hearted effort to achieve these goals.
Volunteer Ann Moore, who has eight grand-nieces and nephews at the school, said of volunteering, “You have to do it. God’s been so good to us that you just have to do it.”