Paul Rodriguez is ACE's Field Consultant for the Catholic School Advantage campaign in the Archdiocese of San Antonio. He sends this update on a success story he learned about while working with the people of St. Gerard High School in San Antonio.
Situated on the east side of San Antonio, Texas, there is a Catholic high school that has served the city’s youth since 1927. It is a school that is rich in history and tradition and has produced some of the city’s most prominent leaders.
St. Gerard High School has been a partner of the Catholic School Advantage campaign for almost an entire year, and as the field consultant representing this campaign in San Antonio, it has been an amazing experience to witness the continued growth and rejuvenation of one of San Antonio’s true gems.
The recent success of the school does not necessarily result from a booming enrollment or state-of-the-art facilities. Rather, the true success of this school emerges from a student body that is motivated and committed to their faith and academics. In addition, the school truly embodies a sense of social justice and service to the community. In fact, St. Gerard’s has recently developed a satellite campus at St. Peter-St. Joseph Children’s Home (St. PJ’s). Through the partnership, SGH extends the Catholic School advantage to abused, neglected, and abandoned children.
Most notably, the inspiration and revived spirit of this school are a primary result of the energy and enthusiasm for Catholic education found in their principal, Mr. Peter Rivera. When speaking of the school, he stated, “St. Gerard High School is serving a great need for the urban area of San Antonio in the Catholic Tradition. Our goal is to impart a love of learning in our student body.”
As a second-year principal of St. Gerard High School, Rivera has revived the appearance of the school on the inside and out. Every time I visit the school, I am amazed by the courtesy of the students, staff, and faculty. Respect and a willingness to succeed as a collective school community permeate the hallways and the inside of classrooms.
Complementing the discipline and the focused curriculum are the spiritual presence of the Ursuline, Franciscan, and School Sisters of Notre Dame, the vigor of a football coach who shows the utmost care for his players, the grace of an office manager who never ceases to smile and welcome visitors, and the environment of an art room able to inspire even the most gifted and talented artists—and of course the passion of a school principal who arrives early and stays late.
Sr. Elizabeth Hatzenbuehler, technology teacher and Ursuline Sister, stated, “Our work is about helping students work towards peace and reconciliation. With the challenges our students face, I try to help them understand on a daily basis that they are unique and that God loves them.”
Mr. Rivera has executed multiple outreach initiatives to increase the community’s knowledge of the great things that St. Gerard has to offer. During one particular week, I witnessed groups of eighth graders from multiple schools touring the campus, being led by St. Gerard student ambassadors. In the view of Mr. Rivera, students must be able to connect with other students to directly experience the spectrum of school culture. One student, senior Maria Fernandez spoke of the school’s greatness. She stated, “What I’ve learned most is the ability to communicate with all people and confront the world. St. Gerard’s has taught me about morals and the difference between right and wrong. I could not have learned these life lessons without the guidance of our Sisters.”
There is no doubt that students who graduate from this institution are equipped to do more than just excel in their next academic endeavor. They are prepared for life as confident individuals filled with faith and joy. Mr. Rivera and the entire school community are committed to the continuing improvement of the institution and the extension of the Catholic School Advantage to more youth in San Antonio.
Significant increases in enrollment are not an overnight phenomenon, but through excellent leadership and an enthusiastic school community, there is no doubt that St. Gerard’s High School will prosper in faith and hope for many years to come.
Accompanying photo: Maria Fernandez, a senior at St. Gerard's, created this mural for a Mass with the Archbishop.