By SHARON BLACK, Special Contributor | Published January 29, 2004
Coming on the heels of Christmas and the celebration of the gift of the birth of Jesus, Catholic Schools Week is a time to celebrate the gift of a Catholic school education. This year’s theme, “A Faith-filled Future,” emphasizes one of the strongest reasons that parents send their children to Catholic schools. Knowing the strength that lies within one’s faith motivates parents all over the world to seek not only a well-rounded education for their children but also an education that will nurture and grow their faith. A Catholic school education provides a faith-filled foundation to give to children to prepare them for life.
Schools throughout the archdiocese have prepared special Masses, school-wide projects, community service activities and classroom activities to emphasize the importance of an education with the additional benefits of a faith-filled, Catholic education.
At Our Lady of the Assumption School, the celebration began on Sunday, Jan. 25 , with an open house for prospective families, alumni and parishioners. Presentations, parent and student-guided school tours, and refreshments were the order of the day. A school-wide Mass on Monday set the tone for the remainder of the week’s special activities. Prospective families were invited to attend the Mass with the students as part of the Classroom Observation Day opportunities.
Bennie Smith, assistant principal, said, “We wanted prospective families and the community to experience a school Mass for themselves. This is a wonderful way to demonstrate the benefits of a Catholic education and what OLA is all about.”
With the help of the room parents and spiritual angel groups, every classroom celebrated their gift of a Catholic education with a party. Room parents supplied the refreshments, and the spiritual angels provided each classroom with a poster board decorated as a “present.” During the party, students wrote on the poster board what they felt were the benefits of their education at OLA school. At the end of the party, students wrote “thank you” notes to their parents for the opportunity to attend a Catholic school. Joan Tiernan, Ph.D, the principal of OLA, said, “We are graced with a wonderful faculty and staff who provide an excellent learning environment for our students. From ‘pre-K’ to 8th grade, we profess our faith and live the gospel message of Jesus Christ. OLA is our heart.”
Fifth-grade students selected the theme of “Follow the Holy Spirit to 5th Grade.” They wrote their own personal prayers to the Holy Spirit, which were attached to beautiful posters they had made for display.
OLA kindergarten students traced their footprints on paper and wrote the biblical verse “If you follow me now I will always be with you.”
Eighth-grade music classes prepared special songs for their musical participation in the archdiocesan Mass for Catholic Schools Week.
The students in OLA middle school created a banner for the hallway with the Catholic Schools Week logo. Each student has “raised his/her hand” with an anecdote of how Catholic schooling has prepared them for a faith-filled future.
The gift of a Catholic school education is given generation after generation in some families, as evidenced by the number of “legacy” (second generation) students that OLA has in its classrooms. Having opened its doors in 1952, the school expects to soon enroll third-generation students.
“Currently, we have about 50 students who are legacies,” said Bennie Smith. Mrs. Smith has been teaching at OLA for 33 years, and according to her, “I always feel very complimented when a former student sends their children to OLA. It tells us that they highly value their OLA education and our incredible sense of community, and they want the same for their children. In fact, our Home and School President, Trisha Bemiller, is one of my former students and has three children at OLA.”
Mrs. Bemiller said, “I have such fond memories of my years at OLA that I couldn’t imagine my children going anywhere else. OLA feels like home to me.”
Kindergarten teacher of 19 years Beth Patria is another OLA teacher who has enjoyed second-generation students. “This year, out of 22 students, I have 18 students in my classroom who are siblings of my former students, three of which are legacies!” She said, “Parents love for their children to follow in their footsteps, so to speak…for their children to have the same kindergarten teacher provides them the opportunity to compare and share their school experiences with their children.”
OLA School has another reason to be especially proud during Catholic Schools Week. Two students from OLA’s class of 2000, Sarah Rolfes and Elisabeth Rowley, were just announced as valedictorian and salutatorian, respectively, at St. Pius X High School, Atlanta. Long time best friends, Rolfes and Rowley trace their friendship back to kindergarten at OLA School.