Along with seeing smiling faces amid more masks, there was another theme that RaeNell Houston noticed among students during their 2021-22 school year graduations.
“The theme this year was resilience,” said Houston, superintendent of Catholic schools for the Department of Catholic Education and Religious Formation for the Archdiocese of New Orleans. “Every student who spoke on stage discussed COVID, distance learning, quarantine absences, Hurricane Ida, and through it all they talked about how their class came together to persevere.”
Twenty-two private high schools have collectively won more than $100 million in scholarships. Several accomplishments include St. Paul’s seniors receiving $24 million from 107 colleges; Mount Carmel, $23.5 million from 167 colleges; Dominican Republic, $19 million from 140 colleges, including 674 college credit hours per semester; St. Croix, $17 million; St. Scholastica, $12 million from 92 colleges; Ursuline, $10.2 million; Chapel, $10 million; Academy of Our Lady, $9.9 million and 681 college credit hours; Sacred Heart, $7.6 million from 23 colleges; Cabrini, $7.2 million from 82 colleges; St. Charles Catholic, $6 million; St. Mary’s, $5.6 million from 60 colleges; Shaw, $5.3 million from 49 colleges; and Pope John Paul II, $4.1 million. The Jesuits asked 12 students to achieve perfect ACT scores.
AOL’s “Health Care Connections” program partners with LCMC Health to help high school students earn licenses as LPNs, registered nurses, and certified practical nurses, while Pope John Paul seniors Intern at medical facilities in St. Tammany Parish, including Physician’s Emergency Care and our Lady of the Lake.
“Businesses in our communities are facing labor shortages for skilled people, and we have found our partnerships with businesses to be even more beneficial and essential since the pandemic,” Houston said.
Community service — a cornerstone of Catholic schools in New Orleans — also returned this year with fewer COVID-19 restrictions. Mount Carmel elders completed with 60,127 hours of community service and Dominican elders had 25,273 hours of community service. There have been 83 “Altar Server of the Year” awards given to middle school students. The Archdiocese organized a “Nickels for Neighbors” campaign to raise $25,000 for private school families impacted by Ida. The St. Edward the Confessor pro-life club designed care packages for the homeless and was able to return to spend time with a senior center near the school.
“These projects give students a vested interest in serving others and helping to build better communities,” said St. Edward’s Principal Thomas Becker. The school added a hand bell choir last year and brought Field Day back to the spring semester.
“In the spring of 2022, students were able to enjoy more regular activities, including co-curricular extracurricular activities that provide opportunities in fine arts, sports, academia and service organizations,” he said. . “Students and faculty felt a return to normalcy and routine that they hadn’t experienced in two years.”
Low enrollment closed three schools in the archdiocese – St. Mary Magdalen, St. Rita and St. Rosalie, affecting 544 students. Houston said nearby schools hold “school information nights” to help families with transfers.
“Each school had an enrollment of less than 200, which has been a consistent benchmark for school viability among Catholic schools in the area,” Houston said. “In justice and equity towards our children, we must provide them with a quality Catholic education with ample opportunities for spiritual, academic and social formation. When enrollment reaches a certain point, our ability to deliver the programs families expect and children deserve is compromised.
St. Therese Academy will move from Our Lady of Divine Providence to St. Mary Magdalene Parish Campus (West Metairie Avenue) after doubling its enrollment to 200 students. The St. Mary Magdalen campus will have 27 classrooms as well as a newly renovated and updated cafeteria and playground to accommodate the growing number of students. “St. Therese Academy has grown and exceeded all expectations in just three years,” said school principal Shannon Bland. ‘expand the services and opportunities we can offer our students.
Houston said the main challenge in 2022-23 is to continue to meet the diverse and growing social and emotional needs of students.
“Two years ago it was the pandemic and the learning loss issues, and we are still working to fill those gaps. But now it’s also the increase in crime, violence, inflation, economy and education costs, and you keep adding all these peripheral factors and a huge amount of stress on the students, things are starting to take a toll on their mental well-being,” Houston said. “We must remain vigilant in our efforts to meet the needs of our families during all these difficult times.”