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Wednesday, Dec. 10, 2008 06:59 am

Bold education strategy at St. Pat’s

Helping children from poverty succeed in school

Faith Sanderson at the Regional Office of Education works with many families in school districts throughout Sangamon County who are in crisis. We should listen to Faith because she has many years of experience in this role. She expressed to me something that I agree very strongly with — education is the key to breaking this cycle of poverty. By demanding, and I mean demanding, that children in poverty stay in school and get an education, they will then have an opportunity to go to college, a trade school, learn a trade in one of the unions, become a public servant, or achieve whatever dream they have for themselves. Without an education, these dreams are very difficult to achieve.

So how do we take children at risk, children in our own backyard, and nurture them toward educational achievement? The odds are not in their favor. Some of these children are faced with many challenges in their daily lives. These are tough eonocomic times for many of us, but be sure they are tougher for those who have less.

In order to expect a different result, we must employ different strategies. The NativityMiguel Network of Schools has done just that in 64 other schools across the nation, and the results have been extraordinary. Nearly 90 percent of these kids — after leaving eighth grade at one of these NativityMiguel schools — graduate from high school on time. That rate is 39 percent higher than comparable students at other schools. Seventy-five percent of those kids enroll in a two-year, or four-year college.

The Academy at St. Patrick Catholic School has applied to be recognized as a NativityMiguel School for the coming school year, which will be the school’s 100th year. The Academy will feature smaller class sizes with longer school days, enrichment programming and after-school tutoring, Saturday programs and a summer program. There will be continuous mentoring and guidance with each graduate through their high school years with the addition of a graduate assistant on staff. We will also require parental involvement.

There are many worthwhile missions near and far. One of my personal mentors once told me that charity begins at home, and that rings very true to me when I think of St. Pat’s on South Grand Avenue East. The board at St. Pat’s and our determined leader, Dr. Cora Benson, have set these high goals for ourselves, and we fully intend to deliver the results that our peers in the NativityMiguel Network have delivered before us. We hope and pray that you will be with us on this worthwhile journey.

Tom Bayer is board president at St. Patrick Catholic School. For more information, go to the school’s Web site at www.st-patrick.org or contact Dr. Cora Benson at Corabenson@yahoo.com or 217-523-7670.

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