Providing for the Future

Our Lady of Pompei School Receives Alumni Support to Ensure its Future

The heart of any neighborhood is most often the church or school nestled within it. These institutions provide much more than spiritual or educational direction. They provide a sense of community and security, a place to socialize and gather for a common cause. That is why the alumni of Our Lady of Pompei School, located on the north side of Syracuse, have joined together to ensure that the school will offer to generations to come, the same opportunities and guidance afforded them. The school has always been a melting pot of cultures and traditions and continues to be.

Linda LeMura, Dean of Arts and Sciences at Le Moyne College, said that when she and her siblings attended Our Lady of Pompei, her eldest sister could not speak English. She was one of many Italian immigrants who attended the school during the administration of Sister Mary Praxedes, OSF, a Franciscan nun who spoke Italian. “Sister Praxedes and Msgr. William Walsh were the key players in teaching and communication,” said LeMura. “I think that’s why Our Lady of Pompei was so successful in educating immigrants.” LeMura and her siblings are so grateful for the strong educational and moral foundation they received at Our Lady of Pompei that they endowed the school with a gifts of $10,000 to support the library. “We are convinced our early education had a profound effect on our personal and professional success in life,” said LeMura. “We are hoping that other people will endow other components of the school –– the computer lab, math lab, language lab and others.”

Attorney Michael Vavonese and his brother, Father Charles Vavonese, assistant superintendent for Catholic Schools for the diocese, are also alumni of Our Lady of Pompei. Michael has been instrumental in starting the alumni association, which began six months ago. “We are trying to encourage alumni, family and friends to get involved in the school,” said Michael. To date, the alumni association has sponsored two events –– an alumni reception and an appeal held at the rectory to benefit the school fund. “We welcome back those who were part of the school in the past and invite them back into the school family, although in a different role.” In addition to having a room named after a particular donor, there are other levels of contributions available for alumni, parents and grandparents. The alumni association is creating a brick pathway leading up to the school that will be engraved with the donor’s name or a name designated by the donor. Other levels include having a donor’s name placed on a plaque as well as a brick, and scholarship donations. To date, the alumni association has received $35,000 in pledges. The funds raised will be used for tuition assistance and student development.

“The tuition is a bargain if you look at the quality of education,” said LeMura. “We believe fervently in the quality of education and we believe it’s worth the effort [fundraising] to ensure the school stays strong.” Father Vavonese said that the diocese, with the assistance of outside consultants, will work to train school personnel to conduct annual appeals. “Each school will determine what best works for them –– what would be appropriate for them to target,” said Father Vavonese. “Heritage Campaign funds are being used to train committees in each school with the goal to empower them to invite people of both financial and human resources to participate in the school’s mission.” Father Vavonese recognized the need to move from a charismatic leadership, which focuses on one person, to an institutional vision where all of the stakeholders have an opportunity to form and work toward the fulfillment of its vision. “Broadening the vision of the school to include more of the stakeholders is particularly important for the continuity of the school,” he said.

“There has been a resurgence of people in the area willing to come back to help the school continue to achieve its vision,” added Michael Vavonese. What used to be a predominately Italian neighborhood is now a blend of Vietnamese, African-American and Italian. “The Italian immigrants are working to ensure not only their children’s future, but that the new population of Vietnamese have educational opportunities available as well. Assisting newly-arrived immigrants is part of the tradition of the school.” In addition to a strong academic and faith foundation, the students at Our Lady of Pompei receive the highest standard of education available. Their tests scores prove it. Our Lady of Pompei students placed in the top 10% of all fourth graders in New York State testing. Also a 100% of their students passed the fourth grade science test in the spring of 2004, which placed them at the top of all schools in the state. The chorus has performed at national competitions as well as at various venues around the city. A new art program has been implemented at the school and the faculty and administration are in the process of creating a new foreign language program to start in the fall of 2005.

“One of the strengths of Our Lady of Pompei is the small class size where the faculty can diagnose the strengths and weaknesses of the students and act upon them,” said LeMura. “A child will never get lost in the shuffle.” “When you walk into Our Lady of Pompei and become involved, you become a part of the Pompei family,” said Principal Barbara Jacques. “It has nothing to do with heritage –– we are all a family. It’s a very welcoming place.” “There is a spirit about the place whereby the faculty instill a sense of joy in learning that lasts a lifetime,” added LeMura. “I would urge parents to visit the school, talk to the kids and teachers and visit the classrooms. I am convinced that any parents who entrusts their children to Our Lady of Pompei will never be disappointed.”

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