St. Francis Xavier a champion for social justice

SUMTER — The following information about St. Francis Xavier High School was provided by Susan Lavergne, principal.

History: Catholic education began in Sumter County in 1861. It has rarely been interrupted since that time. The current high school was founded in 1997 by a group of parents after Sumter Catholic High School was closed. This small cadre of parents had the proverbial “faith of a mustard seed.” Just six months after they learned Sumter Catholic was closing, the doors of St. Francis Xavier were opened.

Principal: Susan Lavergne.

Number of students: Current enrollment is 41 with a capacity for 80.

Faculty: The school has four full-time teachers and four part-time teachers, including one with a Ph.D. and one with two master’s degrees.

School motto: “Faith in Education.”

Grades: Ninth through twelfth.

Hours: 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

After-school program: As a high school we do not offer aftercare, although extra-curricular activities keep our students busy. The school is open at 7:30 a.m. for those students who need to come early. The school stays open daily until at least 3:30 p.m. However, with the number of activities going on, it is usually 4 p.m. before everyone is gone.

School meals: Lunch is ordered from a different local restaurant each day. In addition, quick frozen lunches are available for purchase along with drinks and snacks.

School colors: Hunter green and white.

Mascot: The Padre.

Sports: Cross-country track, swimming and basketball for boys and girls, co-ed soccer, and cheerleading, volleyball and softball for girls. We are looking at adding two more sports next fall.

Let us brag: I am incredibly proud of how involved our students are in all aspects of school life. They are well rounded and participate equally in sports, academic teams and service clubs, and still find time to be involved in their church groups. The proof is in the college acceptances at the University of Notre Dame, Marquette, Villanova and other Catholic universities, as well as all the South Carolina colleges and universities. Another accomplishment is our state basketball championship.

Foreign language: We offer four full years of Spanish.

Advanced classes: Our students may take honors classes in Spanish IV, pre-calculus and physics.

Academic teams: Academic Quiz Bowl, Math Competition, Literary Meet and S.C. Mock Trial competition. Next year we plan to have a debate team.

Facilities: We own and occupy a 26,000 square-foot, one-story, brick school building. It contains 10 classrooms, offices, a dining hall with a kitchen, a science lab, and a state-of the-art computer lab. We are near the heart of Sumter on 3.4 acres. Modern heating and air conditioning units were recently installed.

Biggest change over the years: Purchasing the current building. Also, a generous benefactor has endowed a scholarship fund for deserving students.

What sets us apart: The individualized attention each student receives whether in class, on the playing field, or for college counseling. We are committed to personally preparing each student for their future, and giving them the self-confidence and faith they need to succeed in life.

Community projects: Car washes for Muscular Dystrophy Support Group, dances for senior citizens, food drives for United Ministries, baby goods drives for the Pregnancy Advocacy Center, and handmade Valentine cards for veterans in the hospital.

Our parish: As we are an independent Catholic school, our students come from the three local parishes of St. Jude, St. Anne, and Our Lady of the Skies at Shaw Air Force Base.

Wishes for our school: We want all our Catholic students in the local area to be here. We believe Xavier offers the best of our faith in a solid academic setting. We also would like to have our own gym. Our students currently use the athletic facility at USC-Spartanburg, so practices and other functions can be problematic.

One change we would make to our school: The Sumter Catholic Community long-range plan addresses the issue of combining our two school campuses. We believe that St. Anne Elementary and St. Francis Xavier should be located together.

How we demonstrate the Catholic faith: We have a chapel in the center of school, and we encourage the students and staff to write their prayer concerns in a book outside the door. The chapel is always open. The principal and faculty meet in the chapel in the morning for prayer before assembly. Our students also actively perform community service for others.

Our top awards or honors are: We are very proud of the Silver Rose Award for participating in the Right-to-Life March in Columbia. Our school emphasizes the importance of social justice and the rights of the unborn top that list.

Teacher awards: Maggie Zakri, our social studies teacher, was selected as the local Post and District first place winner for the VFW Civics Teacher of the Year Award.

What percentage of students are Catholic? Approximately 50 percent of the student body is Catholic. We would like to encourage more Catholic parents to come and see our school and discover for themselves the treasure we have here.