6 Benefits of Attending a Catholic High School

6 Benefits of Attending a Catholic High School

Why I'm Thankful Every Day For My High School Experience

I attended Catholic schools from pre-school to 12th grade. When it came time to decide on a college, I decided to follow a new path and opt for a large, public university. I love my life at Pitt and have no doubt that I made the right decision, but I often take note of how much my years at Catholic school meant to me. The skills and experiences I accumulated, particularly in high school, were mostly a product of the Catholic school environment. Here is a list of some of the benefits of a Catholic high school, from the perspective of an alumnus who is grateful they got to attend one.

1. Small Classes

"Small class sizes" is like the unofficial slogan of Catholic education everywhere, and I hate to start with something that has almost become a cliche. But the fact is, having a small class made a world of difference at the high school level. For four years, there was no such thing as not knowing anyone in a class. You were bound to spot a friend or two (or 10) no matter what subject you were in. The group chat of your best friends doubled as the group chat for homework help. Sometimes, classes would be so small that hand-raising went out the window; instead, the teacher and students could just have a casual conversation about the new material. Did it make classes more fun? Obviously. Did it enhance what I learned? Undoubtedly.

2. Uniforms

"Uniforms? Are you serious? Those were the absolute worst." Hear me out, generic skeptical reader of this article. Although lacking the freedom of self-expression through attire is usually high on people's "cons" list, I argue that it made life a heck of a lot easier. Rolling out of bed and throwing on the same clothes as the day before (or at least an identical copy) was the height of efficiency and convenience. The toughest decision of the morning routine was choosing between the white polo shirt or the colored polo shirt. Nobody cared what you were wearing because they were wearing it, too. Plus, it turned dress-down days into a form of currency between the students and faculty. "Oh, you want us to donate to the school? *Untucks shirt* That's gonna cost you...."

3. Writing Skills

This one is more anecdotal, but it's been my experience that those who come out of Catholic school know how to write - sometimes in cursive! Many Catholic high schools, mine included, are designed to prepare their students for college life. One thing that defines college academics is writing oh-so-many papers. By the time my friends and I graduated high school, we had been trained in the art of research paper ad nauseum. MLA format was like a second language that could only be read in Times New Roman, 12 pt font, double-spaced. It was painstaking at the time, but one year into university life, I can say that the ability to write a quality paper - with haste - is vital.

4. Talking About Faith

This is one of the most contested, if not controversial aspects of Catholic schools. I'll go on record as saying that I'm proud to have attended a school where prayer and open discussion about religion were encouraged. The most irritating misconception about Catholic schools is that somehow kids are "brainwashed" into thinking a certain way. This if just plain false. Obviously, most of the students at a Catholic school are going to be practicing Catholics. But at mine, there were also members of other Christian denominations, agnostics, atheists, and so on. People of all backgrounds were welcome, and in religion classes, all opinions were heard. At the end of the day, everybody had the freedom to talk about their faith in God, as well as their questions and doubts. Those who felt drawn to Catholicism had the ability to intertwine their religion and their education into one cohesive experience, something that isn't possible in public schools.

5. Community & Service

The community of a Catholic school is unlike any other I've experienced, and it wasn't just because of the small student population. Most of us had similar values, had the same teachers, went to the same classes, played the same sports, were in the same clubs, and so on. We were in it together - and likewise, we were there to help one another. One of the pillars of Catholic education is the value of service. Every student had to log hours helping enrich their community somehow, from helping at the local Catholic elementary schools to working as a group at food banks. Working in groups, the volunteer hours helped build a sense of pride in our school and in our faith, and the work was definitely worthwhile.

6. It Was Just Fun

For four years, I got to spend every day with people I plan on staying friends with for life. I watched them succeed in their sports and extracurriculars just as they supported me in mine. For four years, we all experienced the dress down days, the fundraisers that got us out of class, the schoolwide inside jokes, and the dances where we left room for the Holy Spirit for about 10 sin-free minutes. We became established in a community that prepped us for the next stages of life, all while creating lasting memories. For these reasons, I am constantly grateful that I attended my Catholic high school, and I hope that my fellow Catholic school grads feel the same way.

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Rejection Does Not Determine Your Worth

Getting rejected from something you've wanted can be a huge learning experience for all.

We’ve all been there. You’re waiting to hear back about a great opportunity, such as an internship, a job, or an engaging role on your campus ...and you don’t get what you’ve been hoping for. When we are faced with rejection, it can be easy to assume it’s because of us. Maybe you’d think, “What’s wrong with me? Why didn’t I get it?”

Being confronted by rejection may be one of the hardest things to face in college.

You enter into the world of your campus believing that all of these amazing possibilities exist, but then you discover that you aren’t going to get the chance to participate in these opportunities. Getting a letter or an email not knowing whether you have been accepted or rejected can seem daunting. Something as small as one email could seemingly ruin your whole day.

Although rejection can definitely be tough to face, it doesn’t determine the value or worth that you have as a student, a child, an employee, or a member of the community. It could simply mean that the other contestants have better credentials or seemed to fit more into the role, but rejection does not result because of who you are as a person.

I have had my fair share of rejection emails, especially in college. I check my email again and again, and I am constantly refreshing the page because of one email. This waiting seems to have consumed all of my time for a short bit. When that email FINALLY comes, I can be excited to open it, only to have this excitement crushed by the rejection that I have just been faced with.

When this happens, it can seem easy to be upset, and maybe even to cry. Letting out your emotions and allowing yourself to feel is an important part of the human experience that can often be looked over because we always want to “keep our cool.” To this, I say that you’re allowed to be upset. You’re allowed to feel crushed or heartbroken.You’re allowed to be human.

When the initial feelings have passed, think about what has just happened to you. You may have just gotten rejected from only one of the opportunities that exist…when there’s so many more! You are more than just a rejection letter; don’t let one answer bring you down for good. Keep applying, and keep getting your name out there!

Being rejected doesn’t always have to solely be a negative experience; it can also be one where people are able to learn and further their personal growth. When you are rejected, you do not lose value. You are still worthy of all that is good, and you are allowed to feel as a result of your experience.

Rejection does not equal your value.

You may be disappointed at the moment, but there are good things in store for you in the future. Don't ever give up on yourself.

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Education Reform Is, And Has Always Been, About Money, Not Learning

Education should not be a competition; the children of America should all receive an excellent education, with no losers.

You hear it all the time: The American school system is failing! We can’t compete on a global scale! What if I told you that this was a lie that was intended to privatize the American school system to financially benefit those making the laws? Through this false narrative of failure, federal education reformists have lined their pockets to the detriment of the schools who need the money the most.

First, we must tackle the idea that education reform like No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top set schools up to look like failures. The goal of No Child Left Behind was to have 100% of students achieve proficiency in math and reading by 2014. This is an admirable goal, but it was setting schools up for failure – it is simply impossible for 100% of students to be proficient.

Between students who are developmentally delayed, ESOL students, and students who just don’t care to learn, the goal of 100% proficiency was impossible. And it was designed to be because if people thought that schools were doing well they would never approve of a plan that funneled public funds into the private sector. Having a “failing school system” instilled a panic in the American public that their children are attending schools that are not educating them. This is the kind of panic that makes people act without scrutinizing the solutions.

How do we know our schools aren’t failing? According to The National Assessment of Educational Progress (the only consistent measure of education that we have in the United States), both reading and mathematics scores have improved steadily and significantly since 1992. We know that this is most likely not due to No Child Left Behind because the steepest increase (greatest improvement each year) happened before its implementation.

Likewise, the number of students who score below basic is decreasing, and the number of students who score proficient or advanced is increasing.

But what about on a global scale? Ever since the launch of Sputnik, the American people have come to fear inferiority in terms of global achievement. The good news is that American schools are doing better than the international average! According to the results of the 2011 TIMSS (Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study), the average score for students on the math section placed the United States in the top 25 countries, and in the top 24 for science.

So what do lawmakers have to gain? Take into consideration the director of Race to the Top competition, Joanne Weiss. Before she was the director of the competition, she was the Chief Operating Officer at NewSchools Venture Fund, an organization that gives money to “education entrepreneurs” (read: people who make money off of students and schools).

Next, according to Joanne Race to the Top was meant to increase economic activity and encourage the creation of markets for profit and non-profit organizations. She openly wrote that the so-called “education reform” was intended to stimulate the private sector, but people still believed that this was the best solution for fixing (an unbroken) education system.

So, what’s the problem? The biggest problem is that nobody did any studies on how Race to the Top or No Child Left Behind would affect the quality of education in the United States. We as a country subjected our children to these untested programs in response to our fear that we were failing them. We left our children in the hands of companies that only care about their bottom lines.

Additionally, the method of forcing “underperforming” schools to compete by reducing their funding is creating a problem. The schools most likely to underperform are schools in low socioeconomic status neighborhoods – schools that already don’t have money due to the way that public schools are funded. Some of these schools do not have the money for licensed teachers, computers, pencils, or other necessities. Taking away the funding to encourage them to “compete” cripples them further, and in some cases, schools are even closed for underperforming!

The school voucher system is also problematic, especially if vouchers are usable at for-profit charter schools. The idea of vouchers is enticing, parents being able to use the money that the state is already paying to educate their child at a school of their choosing.

But here’s the problem: parents with the resources to drive their children to a better school outside will take these vouchers to “better” (generally wealthier) schools and away from the schools that need them. And the parents who do not have these resources (generally poorer) are stuck with their children in schools that had funding issues, to begin with.

For-profit charter and private schools are not all bad, but the fact that a corporation can make profits off of the money that the government sets aside for educating children is a little weird, especially when you consider that charter schools are not often regulated or held to the same standards as public schools. Another thing to consider is that some of the vouchers are being used at private religious schools, which blurs the line between separation of church and state.

The recent changes to our education system that began under the false pretenses of a failing public school system have been an underhanded way to stimulate the economy and privatize our schools. And these movements are not headed by educators, but by businesses who know nothing about how their programs affect student accomplishment. Race to the Top and No Child Left behind have morphed education into a competition. And the driving force of education should not be competition – the children of America should all receive an excellent education, with no losers.

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