St. Martin de Porres is filled with shining stars

COLUMBIA — The following information about  St. Martin de Porres School was provided by Sister Roberta Fulton, SSMN, principal.

History: St. Martin de Porres began with a small group of African-American Catholics who wanted a desegregated place of worship. Bishop Emmet M. Walsh contacted the Dominican fathers in New York and they sent Father Weiland in September 1935. He wrote to Mother Samuel, the prioress-general of the Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa, Wis., to ask for sisters to staff a school. Three sisters were sent and on Sept.  14, 1936, the school opened with 103 students in grades 1-6. From the beginning there was very little money; almost everything had to be donated. In 1953, Bishop William T. Russell deeded the entire property of Blessed Martin Mission to the Dominicans fathers. A new school was built and opened Sept. 13, 1954. The 1980’s saw the addition of a morning and extended-day program for working parents. When the Dominican sisters left, a lay principal was hired. Today, the school is under the guidance of the Sisters of St. Mary of Namur, Buffalo, N.Y.

Principal: Sister Roberta Fulton, SSMN.

Number of students: 80, and we can accommodate about 130.

Faculty: The school has eight full-time and four part-time teachers with a support staff of six.
School motto: “Everyone is a shining star.”

Grades: Pre-kindergarten through sixth-grade.

Hours: 8:15 a.m. to 3:15 p.m.

Morning and after-school care: The morning program starts at 6:45 a.m. and the after-school program runs until 5:30 p.m. We offer study and play time, snacks, gospel choir, chess, African drumming and dance.

School meals: We have a cafeteria and provide breakfast and hot lunch daily. The school participates in the national breakfast/lunch program.

School colors: Navy and white.

Mascot: St. Martin’s Stars.

Sports: Students in grades 2-6 participate in basketball and track. We hope to have soccer and golf next year.

Let us brag: Our school offers a nurturing Christian and academic environment. Our teachers and staff are dedicated and really care about our students. We have committed parents, parishioners, friends and volunteers.

Foreign language: Spanish is taught to all grades.
Academic teams: Students compete annually in the regional Spelling Bee, Providence Hospital’s annual Christmas Card Art Contest, and the Governor’s Reading Contest.

Facilities: We are conveniently located only a few miles from downtown Columbia in the historic Waverly community.

Biggest change over the years: The creation of an active advisory board to focus on the strategic plan.

What sets us apart: St. Martin de Porres is unique in that is has stayed faithful to its mission and emphasis on education in the African-American community.  

Community projects: At Thanksgiving and Christmas we collect food for the St. Martin de Porres soup kitchen and for the poor; our school gospel choir visits Providence Hospital, and sings at the Knights of Columbus State Mass and at St. Martin de Porres Church for Catechist Sunday. Students from Benedict University, Allen University, Claflin University,  USC, Columbia College and Cardinal Newman High School give extra help to develop individual student talents and gifts to the highest potential.

Our parish: We are part of St. Martin de Porres Church and our pastor is Father Paul Williams, of the Order of Friars Minor.  Brother Henry Fulmer, also of the Order of Friars Minor, teaches religion at the school.  Deacon Carl Johnson is a mentor and works with all of our students.
Wishes for our school: Our school building is 54 years old and needs remodeling to meet the challenges of a 21st century school. Major and minor renovations of our physical facilities are required. We’d love to have a gym and upgrade our computer lab. We also would like to increase and maintain enrollment at capacity.

How we demonstrate the Catholic faith: All students participate in our religion program. Each morning, we gather as a school community for prayer and scripture reflection. Our focus on teaching as Jesus taught challenges us to live in a community where we respect one another. We encourage our students to be peacemakers and love one another. Each day we discuss how to be true disciples of Jesus.

Awards and recognition: Students  participate in a school-wide science fair, the diocesan Spelling Bee, Math Carnival, Social Studies Fair,  Black History Bowl and the Poetry Slam.

Music/art programs: Music is offered two days a week for all grades.

Average scores on the IOWA test: We use the test scores to look at the progress of each student and strengthen areas that need it.

Alumni of note: Our alumni can be found in all professions. They’re making a difference in our world and all of them credit their success to the solid foundation they received at St. Martin School. A few stand-outs include Etta Harrison, who was among the first of our students to integrate and graduate from Cardinal Newman in 1968. Dr. Henrie Montieth Treadwell was the first black female student to integrate into USC. She received her post doctoral studies at Harvard University and now directs health care at Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta. Dr. Kwakiutl Lynn Dreher received her Ph.D. from the University of California-Riverside. Her latest published book is “Dancing on the White Page.” She also is a performance artist.

Programs for disabilities: We provide remedial help and enrichment.