John Kmetz is a partner at BKD, LLP, and a member of the CEF Board of Directors.
This month marked a new experience for me as a Catholic Education Foundation board member. Through my involvement in CEF, I’ve toured numerous grade schools throughout the Archdiocese. The joy that these schools emanate is unmistakable. On top of the deep Catholic roots that are always evident, it is just a lot of fun to see young kids in their element playing, learning, feeling loved. As the father of a high schooler, I understand that while joy is still there, for teenagers, it is sometimes hiding under a candy-shell of hormone-induced nonchalance. So it was with curiosity that I walked into Bishop Ward High School for my first CEF high school tour. Bishop Ward is one of 22 schools currently receiving scholarship support from the Catholic Education Foundation.
Arriving on campus, the feeling of heritage and history hits you immediately. The focus on faith was evident everywhere. You could not help but feel a bit nostalgic. The classic building echoed the footsteps of decades of dedicated students, of a strong community and of unlimited potential.
Established in 1908, and with the current school building built in 1931, Bishop Ward feels like a place of historical significance. The hallways are canvassed with pictures of graduating classes back to 1912. The halls also prominently display posters of successful students, the top of their most recent graduating class, and the colleges that they are now attending.
Our tour guide explained that this has always been, and continues to be, an immigrant school. In the early 20th century, as Strawberry Hill accumulated many difference nationalities, these recent immigrants wanted to send their children to a school guided by Catholic values. Now, over 100 years later, the nationalities of these immigrants has largely changed, but the sentiment is the same.
Bishop Ward represents what is best about Catholic education. Father Agustin Martinez addressed our group, proud of one new initiative at Bishop Ward: Java, Juice and Jesus. This is a campus ministry effort to enable the students to better engage in the community and get to know Jesus. This part of Bishop Ward’s mission is clear: help every one of these students know Jesus. Over 98% of these kids will graduate, compared to 70% of their peers in nearby schools. This is not a coincidence.
Oh, and as for joy, we saw cheerleaders in the auditorium, excited students in the hallway, a zealous STEM teacher proudly displaying his students’ most recent achievements, and a president and principal who didn’t stop smiling the entirety of our visit. Joy is something the students and faculty at Bishop Ward have in surplus.
Photo courtesy of The Leaven