This fall, as the leaves begin to fall from the trees and the days become shorter, it could seem like hope is fading. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.
This time of year, trees turn color, days are getting shorter and the air cooler. Beaches close, people spend more time inside, and it can feel like the best parts of the year are over. Yet it is the exact time of year when students enter a new world of hope and optimism; a fresh slate as the school year begins. It is an odd juxtaposition -- the warmth and life of summer melting into fall and the dead of winter, just as so many new opportunities are emerging for young people.
Fall is the time of year when students and families begin to explore opportunities for the best school for their child for next year. In our area, hundreds of options exist for families: elite independent schools that have been around for hundreds of years, public schools, charter schools, vocational schools, and Catholic schools.
Among all these options, there is no question that Catholic schools have the best outcomes in developing the whole person. In fact, if you simply look at the leadership in our government, military and businesses, an extraordinary percentage of those leaders were Catholic school educated. For example, six of the nine Supreme Court justices went to a Catholic School. Of the three who did not attend a Catholic school at any level, one reportedly won the National Catholic Forensic League original oratory competition in 1988. Bottom line: the influence and importance of Catholic schools is profound.
Putting kids first and understanding education in the context of the Gospel is why Catholic schools succeed. In this context, Catholic schools must provide high-quality academics, they must care for the social, spiritual, and psychological needs of students, and they must expect students to succeed. This is why Catholic schools have superior student outcomes and change lives.
Catholic schools shape morals and values; they demand academic excellence and encourage exploration of God's gifts and talents. Catholic schools are not about getting students into college or increasing their economic earning power, although they do this well. Catholic schools are about changing lives. Catholic schools are about providing an environment where students are safe to learn, explore and become who God is calling them to be.
A good friend of mine is a Jesuit priest and the president of a high school. Each year he stands in front of the assembled families at their Open House and tells them that if all they want is excellent academics, then they should send their children somewhere else. A bold statement. At his school, the students receive an extraordinary academic education, are challenged to see their place in the world, and develop a sense of responsibility for their fellow person. Students understand that the measure of success is not test scores or college placement but living a good moral life where you contribute your gifts for the greater good and understand that the Gospel is a guide for living.
This fall, as the leaves begin to fall from the trees and the days become shorter, it could seem like hope is fading. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. The fall is a season of great hope and renewal. Thousands of families are experiencing a Catholic education because of a Catholic Schools Foundation scholarship. Thousands more will be looking this year to give their child a better opportunity next year, hopeful that their child will attend a school that will give them the skills and formation to become the person God is calling them to be. It is a hope-filled and exciting time.
At the Catholic Schools Foundation, we work with school leaders and families to bring reality to the hopes of these families, but we cannot do it without the support of generous donors. Together, we will change lives. For more information to support this work, please visit us at csfboston.org.
- Michael B. Reardon is executive director of the Catholic Schools Foundation, www.CSFBoston.org.