Catholic Schools Celebrate Their Strengths

Article excerpt

Byline: Kristy Kennedy Daily Herald Staff Writer

Kathi Hoper of Glen Ellyn says she sent her eight children to Catholic schools because she saw them as an extension of home.

"Once I got into it, I felt the teachers were helping me to raise the kids," said Hoper, whose youngest, twins Sarah and Ellen, are seniors at St. Francis High School in Wheaton.

This week, Catholic schools throughout DuPage County will celebrate National Catholic Schools Week to show pride in what they have to offer.

In DuPage, there are 33 Catholic elementary schools and five high schools with an enrollment of 11,697 elementary school students and 2,045 secondary students.

Like Hoper, many parents who choose to send children to Catholic schools feel that education involved more than just reading, writing and arithmetic.

It also means discipline, values and morals aimed at molding youngsters into responsible, caring adults who will live a Christian lifestyle.

"If we start with them at a younger age, then hopefully they will become responsible Catholics in their own parishes," said Lorraine Parker, a ministry teacher at Driscoll Catholic High School in Addison, who also sends her three children to Catholic schools.

She explained that teachers lead by example and act as role models for students. And beyond good grades, students are expected to show care for others.

For instance, a new program at Driscoll will require freshmen to complete 24 hours of volunteer service, Parker said.

"It's a way to teach them concern for other people," she said.

At Sacred Heart School in Lombard, parents are teaching that same lesson.

Through a little elbow grease of their own, parents also are showing students they should have pride in their school.

This summer, more than 100 parents helped renovate the aging Lombard school by stripping woodwork, painting and repairing bathrooms.

That effort gives students an important lesson just as valuable as what can be learned in the classroom, said Rita Kennedy, who helped mobilize the parents.

"When kids see what their parents do, they behave in kind," said Kennedy, whose daughter Theresa Lipp attends the school. "It shows there is a thread of support and that everyone shares a common vision."

And even though DuPage County is home to some of the nation's best public schools, Kennedy and other parents say they are willing to pay for the lessons in values. …