Growing in wisdom and grace

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image005By Bernadette ‘bunny’ verna
Sun contributing writer

CLINTON — St. Mary’s School provides a small, nurturing environment with high academic standards and a values orientation.  The faculty is certified and dedicated to providing a strong foundation for life-long learning programs to any family who desires it, regardless of income, race, or faith.  The school provides for the development of well-educated, community-minded, responsible Christian children sharing in God’s love. To that end, the school has formed an active and engaged commission who seeks parishioners, alumni, and friends of St. Mary’s to provide annual scholarships for subsidizing families who need financial tuition assistance.
Academically, St. Mary’s typically has the highest test scores in the region for parochial and public schools.  On the most recent New York State Fifth Grade Social Studies test scores, 100% of the students achieved the mastery level, including students with IEP’s among them. The enhanced curriculum offers instruction in technology, Spanish, French, art, library, physical education, choral and instrumental music for grades Pre-K through sixth.  Class size is intimate with an average of 15 students.  Resources for advancement and remedial studies are also available. St. Mary’s sports program includes cross country, track, and basketball teams for grades three to six.  Kindergarteners through second grade students learn how to play basketball in a parent-led program.  Students can participate in a variety of clubs.

St. Mary’s is accredited by the Middle States Association for Elementary Education.  It is not uncommon for St. Mary’s alumni to be valedictorians or salutatorians at many local high schools. Most important is the school’s strong emphasis on Catholic identity and Christian values.

Community Service Projects

Many schools are community-minded, but St Mary’s School in Clinton has initiated a unique program whereby students truly “put their faith into action.” The “Virtues” program is centered on the sixth-grade class, but the entire student body is actively involved.
The “Virtues” program is a vehicle by which the sixth graders teach the younger children about good habits — virtues. In past years, various virtues have been addressed.  Humility, patience, kindness, modesty, respect, and obedience are several examples. The sixth graders, once  they settle on a particular theme, discuss various methods by which they will convey the message to the younger children. Skits, plays, songs, cheers, power-point presentations and games are often employed. The “Virtues” presentations are held monthly for the entire school and parents are always welcome.

The December 2008 Virtues Cast

The theme for the current school year is “Love Your Neighbor.” This theme was introduced with a skit that portrayed children in various settings (cafeteria, bus, basketball court) being confronted with individuals who made it difficult to “love your neighbor.” Discussions followed and visits to classrooms by the sixth graders enhanced the importance of the message.
As the school year progressed, the sixth grade children decided that “loving your neighbor” could be projected far beyond the confines of St. Mary’s School. It was determined that Mother Marianne’s West Side Soup Kitchen, an initiative of St. Joseph/St. Patrick’s Church in Utica, would be the focus of the sixth-grade “Virtues” program this year.  To this end, the students held a “dress-down day”  and everyone donated a can of soup for the soup kitchen.  The sixth graders organized the day with posters, reminders sent home and encouragement to the children in the school. They were astonished when they realized that they had collected more than 25 bags of soup!
Rather than just delivering the donations of soup to the soup kitchen, the students donated their time as well.  They visited the soup kitchen, hand-delivered the soup and spent time volunteering to help. They cleaned tables, swept floors, made sandwiches, served food and washed dishes. Regular visits have been made to Mother Marianne’s West Side Soup Kitchen, and the children have learned many lessons while volunteering their time and energy. Student Madeline Krasniak summed up the experience by saying, “It makes me feel good because I know that I am helping people. It shows people that others care about them, even though they are strangers.”
At Thanksgiving time, the sixth graders donned aprons and plastic gloves. Tables were set-up on the stage of the school, and every sixth grader made either an apple pie or a pumpkin pie. Parents helped, and the pies were then delivered to the soup kitchen to be served with Thanksgiving dinners.
Preparing pies

Prior to another visit to the soup kitchen, the sixth-grade students organized another “dress-down day” for the entire school. This time, the children donated bags of cookies and /or canned fruit. Another trip to the soup kitchen offered an opportunity for the students to clean, prepare meals and serve food.  The children even decorated ice cream with cookies!
Bernadette Verna, St. Mary’s School sixth-grade teacher, said that providing the children the opportunity to volunteer at Mother Marianne’s Soup Kitchen is much more than just a hands-on experience outside the classroom: “It is an opportunity for the students to put their faith into action and to recognize that Jesus is in everyone. By serving the guests at the soup kitchen, the children are actually serving Jesus.” The younger children at St. Mary’s School will learn important lessons from the sixth-grade students who are trying to model love thy neighbor
Admission for the 2009-10 school year begins soon. Anyone interested in St. Mary’s as an educational experience, can contact the office of St. Mary’s School, 5 Prospect St., Clinton, N.Y. 13323; or
e-mail: bmartino@syrdiocese.org (principal); phone: 315-853-6196.

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