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President Visits St. Andrew Catholic School

Theo Helm on Sunday, 05 March 2017.

President Visits St. Andrew Catholic School

President Donald Trump, Secretary Betsy DeVos, Sen. Marco Rubio, and Florida Gov. Rick Scott visited St. Andrew Catholic School in the Diocese of Orlando Friday, witnessing firsthand the role that the Florida tax-credit scholarship program has played in empowering thousands of Florida families to choose the best education for their child.

St. Andrew is one of our 14 Notre Dame ACE Academies. The President visited two classrooms, observing signs that shared Notre Dame ACE Academies’ core values – seek, persist, excel, love, and serve – printed in three languages: English, Spanish, and Creole, the native language of many St. Andrew’s families.

In the classrooms and in the following round-table discussion, the President met the children that we often serve – sometimes on the margins, frequently immigrants, and always treated with respect and dignity.

The President heard several testimonials from the children of immigrants or immigrants themselves, each sharing a journey toward opportunity and the critical role education plays in that journey.

“Like I told the President, I work hard because my mother, who is an immigrant from Haiti, struggled to get the best education for me,” said Marcus Millien, a former St. Andrew student who now attends Bishop Moore Catholic High School. “This is what drives me: to show my mom that she’s done well by attaining the American dream and trying to give me a better life than what she had.”

Stephanie Jean-Jacques, who teaches English language arts at St. Andrew, also mentioned her Haitian roots when she described how St. Andrew cares for children. “As a proud child of two Haitian immigrants, I understand the struggles of our parents and their children,” she told the President. “My experience in a Haitian-American household has allowed me to relate to my students and reassure parents that there are teachers here who can identify with their families. For families like these, education is a top priority, but unfortunately, education is often limited due to low income.”

Bryanna Ortiz, an eighth-grader at St. Andrew, was proud of the education she was receiving at St. Andrew. “I told the President that when I went to public school, my parents didn’t have to tell me I was failing. I knew I was failing,” Bryanna said. “I was just blowing through the system. At St. Andrew, it is such a big difference. Before I was failing, and now I’m a member of the National Honor Society.”

Principal Latrina Peters-Gipson said that the President’s visit was also a way to change the perception of St. Andrew in its community of Pine Hills.

“Many of you know the rep that Pine Hills gets. But I would like to tell you that St. Andrew is the diamond in the rough in Pine Hills. Here at St. Andrew Catholic School, we soar academically, creatively and spiritually,” said Latrina, who wrote an op-ed about the visit that appeared in Thursday’s Orlando Sentinel. “We believe that children can make a difference in the world, and that’s why our goals are college and heaven.”

We have great hope that the President’s visit to St. Andrew demonstrates the awesome dignity of the children we serve – as well as the unique value of our mission to help forge a path to college and heaven for every child entrusted to our care.

“(St. Andrew’s) brought me closer to a lot of people who helped me with my education academically and spiritually,” said Artayia Wesley, a student at Bishop Moore who attended St. Andrew. “It’s brought me closer to my Catholic faith.”

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