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Catholic School Advantage: A Letter from San Antonio

Written by William Schmitt on Friday, 09 December 2011.

By Field Consultant Paul Rodriguez

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.

Catholic School Advantage - A Letter from New York

on Friday, 09 December 2011.

by Field Consultant Rudy Vargas

Rudy Vargas is ACE’s Field Consultant for the Catholic School Advantage campaign in the Archdiocese of New York. He sends this update on a success story he has seen while working with the people of various elementary and secondary schools in the Bronx and elsewhere in the New York City area.

“One person with a belief is equal to a force of ninety-nine who have only interests.”
– Scottish Clergyman Peter Marshall (1902-1949)

I have been visiting with madrinas in these past few months in my work with the Catholic School Advantage campaign in New York. The madrinas groups have been initiated since June 2011 as one of our major strategies to increase Latino enrollment and retention. These visits with madrinas have been a blessing.

From the Field: Fr. Joe Corpora, C.S.C.

on Thursday, 08 December 2011.

Father Joe Corpora, C.S.C., an alumnus of Notre Dame and a priest in the Congregation of Holy Cross, is the director of University-School Partnerships in ACE. He works to build lasting alliances with schools and dioceses as leader of ACE's Catholic School Advantage campaign, the initiative to double the percentage of Latinos who send their children to Catholic elementary and secondary schools by 2020.

Father Joe served at the University of Portland in Oregon for six years before beginning two decades as a pastor-first at St. John Vianney Parish in Goodyear, Arizona, a parish that is 90% Mexican-American and Mexican, and then at Holy Redeemer Parish in Portland, Oregon. In the former position, he founded the first Catholic school to be opened in the Diocese of Phoenix in thirty years. He returned to Notre Dame in 2009.

Texas Advocates Region to Host February Retreat

on Tuesday, 06 December 2011.

All Are Welcome!

Texas Retreat MobileThe Dallas and Austin ACE Advocates invite you to join them this February for a regional retreat at Balcones Springs, a retreat center located an hour outside of Austin.This weekend of reflection and prayer will take place from Friday, February 17 to Sunday, February 19, and welcomes all who love Catholic schools.

Spend your Presidents' Day weekend reconnecting with friends, resting in this peaceful and much-loved site of ACE Teaching Fellows's annual December Retreat, and being reinvigorated to continue the mission of ACE Advocates. Fr. Lou and other members of the ACE staff look forward to spending the weekend with you!

Register now!  Or, if you have any questions, contact Elizabeth Stewart at .

Gift Boosts Effort to Open Doors to Sports for Kids with Learning Disabilities

Written by William Schmitt on Tuesday, 06 December 2011.

Thanks to a gift from Shire Pharmaceuticals, Play Like a Champion Today® will develop educational materials to assist coaches to work with children with a range of learning disabilities, pervasive developmental disorders, such as Asperger's Syndrome, and health problems, such as asthma.

A team of national experts will work with directors of the Play Like a Champion program to develop a national initiative preparing youth and high school coaches in the area of exceptionalities. Notre Dame's Play Like a Champion program, now in its sixth year, offers an athlete-centered, research-based approach framing coaching as a character-building enterprise that complements the educational process. More than 17,000 coaches and 4,000 parents have participated in Play Like a Champion workshops where they are encouraged to see athletics as a means of having fun as well as promoting physical and moral development.


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