By Jill Keppeler
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — As students throughout the region prepare to mark Catholic Schools Week with open houses, service projects and special activities, it’s not just a celebration, it’s an identity.
At DeSales Catholic School, Principal Dr. Scott Fike said a full week’s activities are planned.
Today students will learn a few details on the annual school challenge.
Every year the pupils raise money for a charitable or worthy cause. If they meet their goal, they’re rewarded with something special. Last year, the principal spent the day on the school’s roof.
The challenge — and its reward — is something the students look forward to every year.
During the week itself, there’s something different planned avery day.
The week kicks off this morning with a prayer service in the school gymnasium. Tuesday the school welcomes members of Mount St. Mary’s jazz ensemble. Students will have an opportunity to meet the students from the Kenmore school and get a closer look at the musical instruments thy use.
A school mass highlights Wednesday’s activities. At night, the newest members of the school’s National Junior Honor Society will be inducted. No activities are planned Thursday, but it will be a dress down day with a relaxed school dress code.
Friday is the big day. Students will see a preview of the annual school play and there is a 2-1/2-hour assembly during which games, challenges and other activities take place. Students also learn if they’ve met their annual school challenge — and their reward.
“It’s an event where, if you came for a visit, you’d have to leave the gym and walk down the hall to have a conversation,” Dr. Fike said. “The kids really get into it.”
Dr. Fike said Catholic Schools Week is an opportunity for students to celebrate the education they receive.
“Some think Catholic school education is a holdover from the 1960s,” Fike said. “Yes, there’s the faith, but we have excellent teachers, state of the art technology and more.”
The week is sponsored by the National Catholic Education Association, of which Dr. Fike is the New York State elementary schools representative.
“A lot of work goes into getting this week ready,” Dr. Fike said. “It’s a celebration designed for all Catholic schools to celebrate what Catholic education is.”
For example, Catholic School Week is also a celebration of family, something that schools in other parts of Niagara County and in Erie County say.
Colleen Politowski, principal of St. Francis of Assisi School in the City of Tonawanda, said the annual event allows the often smaller schools and their students a chance to show off who they are and what they can do.
“I think it just brings everybody together,” she said. “And that’s what it’s all about. We’re a community, we should celebrate being together.”
The school will kick off the week today with Mass at 11 a.m., followed by an open house from noon to 2 p.m. for current students’ families and those of potential students.
“We’re rooted in faith, so to be able to start off with a Mass and bring everyone together, I think that’s important,” Politowski said. “We’ll give them a little introduction to everything, to what we have to offer, to the scholarships and tuition assistance we have available.” A special passport program will allow visitors who collect stamps at six classrooms to enter to win a basket full of St. Francis items.
The events will continue Monday with a field trip, a special visit from Jeff Musial of Nickel City Reptiles on Tuesday, a Wednesday Career Day (during which students will dress up as what they want to be when they grow up) and a spelling bee and storybook character day on Thursday, when students will dress up as their favorite character and chose a special person to come in and read the book with them.
Friday will mark Spirit Day and the Teacher Olympics, when students will dress in the school colors of green and white and cheer on their favorite teachers in different events such as a paper bag race and a trivia contest. On Saturday, the week will conclude with a spaghetti dinner and theme tray auction in the school gym, with tickets sold from 2:30 to 6:30 p.m. and dinner from 3 to 7 p.m. Students are also collecting pennies to donate to the SPCA throughout the week.
Politowski said she didn’t want the events to focus only on the younger students.
“We’re not just early childhood, and I think it’s important for everyone to see the bigger picture, making people realize that they do have a choice with education,” she said. “We have a small school and a tight-knit community, and I think that’s’ very, very important. There are some kids who do well in a big pond, but there are students who thrive in a smaller community and they really get to shine.
“They do have a choice, and we celebrate that.”Managing Editor John Hopkins contributed to this report.