Catholic Secondary School Is the Best Path For Growing in Knowledge and Faith
By Brother Ralph Darmento, F.S.C., and Briana Podlovits
Autumn heralds the call to parents of eighth graders to choose an appropriate secondary school for their children.
Making this decision requires, among many factors, an understanding of the motivations and aspirations of their child, knowledge of the skills and competencies that 21st-century global citizens will need to succeed in life and the ability to discern the best fit for their child. The ideal choice is a school that allows for a young person to grow and experience life in a comfortable and challenging manner.
Many parents often question the financing of a Catholic or private school education, and balance this with the desire to provide that which is best for their son or daughter. By choosing a Catholic secondary school parents are providing their children with a unique opportunity to grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ while engaging in a quality college preparatory education.
Each of the 18 Catholic secondary schools located in Brooklyn and Queens provides an education that reflects the national standards and benchmarks for effective Catholic elementary and secondary schools.
The standards, resulting from a collaborative effort by professionals and practitioners representing the Center for Catholic School Effectiveness at Loyola University, the Roche Center for Catholic Education at Boston College and the National Catholic Education Association, “describe how the most mission-driven, program effective, well-managed and responsibly governed Catholic schools operate.”
The document provides nine defining characteristics of Catholic schools based on Church teachings, 13 standards and 70 benchmarks.
Dr. Lorraine Ozar, chair of the project task force, said “the effectiveness standards give the entire Catholic community a common framework of universal characteristics of Catholic identity and agreed upon criteria for Catholic school excellence.”
The defining characteristics, the foundation upon which the standards and benchmarks rest, flow from the rich treasure of the Church’s teaching on Catholic schools as detailed by Archbishop Michael Miller, C.S.B.
These characteristics address the Catholic school as centered in the person of Jesus Christ, contributing to the evangelizing mission of the Church, distinguished by excellence, committed to educate the whole child, steeped in a Catholic worldview, sustained by Gospel witness, shaped by communion and community, accessible to all students and established by the expressed authority of the bishop.
Deepening Spiritual Life
On a practical level, the Catholic secondary schools located within the Diocese of Brooklyn can be viewed as consistent with these characteristics. Students receive religious formation, instruction in the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, an invitation to deepening their spiritual life and opportunities for prayer and liturgy as well as Christian service.
Brooklyn and Queens Catholic schools graduate students of accomplishment from award-winning thespians to budding engineers. The secondary schools graduate students distinguished by the ability to think creatively, reason critically, communicate effectively, utilize technology smartly and problem-solve intelligently and ethically.
The Class of 2017 earned over $350 million in academic and merit scholarships and 99 percent of the class pursues undergraduate studies at colleges and universities across the country.
Brooklyn and Queens alumni include educators, medical and dental professionals, priests and religious, actors and athletes, coaches and social workers, politicians, venture capitalists and economists, authors and playwrights, musicians and artists.
The standards describe policies, programs, structures and processes that mark effective and excellent Catholic schools. They address four domains: Mission and Catholic Identity, Governance and Leadership, Academic Excellence and Operational Vitality. Within the Catholic secondary school community, students receive a Catholic formation with course work in religious studies and opportunities for service learning, participation in retreats and leadership programs.
In addition to a rigorous education in the liberal arts and sciences, course offerings in many schools include robotics, American Sign Language, forensic science and the performing arts. Partnerships with St. John’s University, St. Francis College, Molloy College, Brown University, Syracuse University and SUNY Albany allow students to earn college credit for approved courses.
Today, students are using technology as a learning and research tool. STEM and STEAM programs are growing in popularity along with the use of mobile devices. Professional pre-medicine, engineering, business and engineering programs are available for students in addition to internships and international exchange programs. A wide range of offerings for gifted and talented students is available through scholars and honors programs, the International Baccalaureate and science research.
Certainly, all people committed to Catholic education can take justifiable pride in the achievements and programs of the 18 Catholic secondary schools educating and forming 13,000 young people into men and women of competence, compassion and courage.
Let the Good News of Catholic schools be trumpeted throughout the metropolitan area as they prepare to further advance even further based upon a newly endorsed strategic vision for Catholic secondary schools that will continue to raise the standards. These schools are blessed with educators who, on a daily basis, “touch the hearts, nurture the souls, kindle the minds and inspire the lives of the students entrusted to their care.”
Lastly, the ACE Program of the University of Notre Dame found that “Graduates of Catholic high schools earn higher wages than peers who graduate from public schools; are more likely to vote than their peers who graduate from public schools; and are more civically engaged, more committed to service, and more tolerant of others.”
What a return on investment! Visit the websites of the Catholic high schools for further information and attend an open house program to experience, explore and encounter educational excellence.
The Catholic secondary schools of the Diocese of Brooklyn offer “education for the future, faith for a lifetime.”
Brother Ralph and Podlovits are the deputy superintendent and marketing coordinator, respectively, in the diocesan Office of the Superintendent~Catholic School Support Services.