PALM BEACH GARDENS | After a year unlike any other, teachers, staff, administrators and parents throughout the Diocese of Palm Beach are all ready to start off the 2021-2022 school year with a fresh, new, and inspiring plan.
Led by the Office of Catholic Schools, the Diocese of Palm Beach Catholic schools are embarking on a theme of “Faith Inspiring Excellence.” The campaign is both simple and inspiring, with a focus on the mission of a Catholic school education replete with high academic standards, individualized attention and a holistic development. While not new to a Catholic school education, the challenges of the past school year have made them more important than ever before to the 20 schools who will be adopting “Faith Inspiring Excellence” as their theme.
Academic standards are one of the three areas of focus in the plan as it offers a foundation for reaching future goals in life. When faith is at the center of that education, it inspires excellence in academics and beyond.
“Last year, the graduation rate average from our three high schools was 99.3 percent, with 99 percent of the Diocese of Palm Beach high school graduates choosing to attend a college or university,” according to Gary Gelo, superintendent of Catholic Schools for the Diocese of Palm Beach.
Of the 304 graduates in the Palm Beach Diocese Catholic high schools, $19,122,151 in scholarship money was awarded to assist in their postsecondary education. Part of the reason for the academic success of Catholic school students is because of the smaller class sizes that can tailor lessons to reach all students; individualized attention that recognize how students learn differently; and the strong focus on faith in which students feel like a valued part of the school community. Students are inspired to participate in extracurricular activities and develop strong bonds of camaraderie and community that often last for a lifetime.
The family atmosphere of a Catholic school education creates a legacy of multiple generations of the same family attending and growing in faith and academics. A 2012 report found that graduates of Catholic high schools are not only more civically engaged and more tolerant of diverse views, but were more likely to vote and to enjoy a higher earning potential than their public school peers.
“As a parent of a student in one of our Diocese of Palm Beach schools, I know that our schools work hard on a daily basis to help students develop personal values that will guide them now and in the future,” said Jennifer Trefelner, the diocesan director of communications, marketing and social media. “I am so grateful that my daughter has not only strong academics on campus, but also a focus on moral character and service to others.”
Trefelner, who is also a Catholic alum, said the holistic approach to education reveals there is more to life than personal success; there is moral character, service to the community and ever-present faith. Faith Inspiring Excellence also stresses family because engaged families help to build a caring community, and each family member plays a role in helping students develop their personal values. Students and family members work together to live their faith through action, whether it is through fundraising for missionaries in Honduras or helping a neighbor down the street. A 2009 report by Stewart, Wolf, et. al, found “inner-city Catholic school parents reported taking an active role in their children’s education and believed that participating in the Catholic school community represented an opportunity to break the cycle of poverty.”
Catholic school students are encouraged to follow their moral compass at a young age. Religion classes and a strong effort to help provide spiritual development and pastoral counseling help to ensure that students see the working Body of Christ in their education from kindergarten through high school graduation and beyond.
“Our schools are more than just buildings,” Gelo said. “We have communities of passionate teachers, school leaders, and families who work together to grow students and prepare them for the future.”
While at the helm in helping to guide the Diocese of Palm Beach Schools, Gelo is quick to credit Trefelner and the communications office team of Liz Merizzi and Cynthia Pashley for their “excellent work and countless hours spent putting together the materials for this campaign.”
“(Faith Inspiring Excellence) speaks to the mission of our Catholic schools, which is to build learning communities rich in Catholic values and tradition,” Gelo continued. “We are proud to utilize a theme this year that shows how faith inspires excellence in all aspects of educating the ‘whole child’ in mind, body, and spirit. As we often say, it is in developing the gifts, talents, and uniqueness of their students, the schools seek to prepare leaders and Christian stewards as a beacon of hope for the Church of the future.”
To learn more about the diocese’s Catholic schools, visit www.DiocesePBSchools.org or follow them on Facebook and Instagram @DoPBCatholicSchools or on Twitter@DoPBCatholicSch.