Enhancing the Catholic School experience

December 13, 2016

Funds from the annual Steps for Students enabled Assumption Catholic School to upgrade the first floor of one of their buildings, replacing the carpet with tile. Photo courtesy of Assumption Catholic School.

HOUSTON — Participating in the annual Steps for Students on Feb. 18, 2017, now in its 12th year, isn’t just about running or walking a 5K.

Funds raised by the event help Catholic schools in the Archdiocese in different ways. Chaired by Diana Dávila Martínez and Román Martínez, the USA Track & Field sanctioned race begins with a sunrise Mass on Feb. 18, 2017 at the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, 1111 St. Joseph Parkway, with runners welcome to attend in their race gear.

Dr. Julie Vogel, superintendent of Catholic Schools, said the funds raised are used for the unique needs of each school, such as tuition assistance and special school projects. 

“Some schools put a certain amount in the budget for tuition assistance and then use the other funds for a variety of things such as building a stations of the cross on the school campus or a Rosary garden, purchasing new playground equipment, field trips and activities outside the regular classroom and buying books for their libraries,” she said. “The ideas are endless. Still others use the money to meet their school fundraising goals to offset some of the operational expenses of the school.”

Funds also help enhance the curriculum of Archdiocesan schools, some of them using the funds to purchase hands-on science kits or using the funds to improve the middle school science labs.

“I know that some schools have used the funds to buy classroom sets of novels for literature studies; others use the funds to purchase math manipulatives, games, computer applications to improve math fluency, etc.,” Dr. Vogel said. 

Dymphna Palomino, registrar at Assumption Catholic School, said funds from Steps for Students have helped them enhance both learning and the campus.

“Our school has used the funds for purchasing six mimios with laptops and a couple of document cameras to further the interactive learning of our students,” she said. “To enhance the look of the school, we were able to upgrade the first floor of one of our buildings, replacing the carpet with tile.”

Beth Istre, director of Advancement at Sacred Heart Catholic School in Conroe, said they’ve used money raised for a variety of enhancements to campus and curriculum.

“We have been able to purchase new playground equipment and PE equipment as well as new security software and upgrades on campus,” she said. “We purchased new materials for our social studies curriculum and continue to add to our technology capabilities in every classroom.”
Krissa Mentuis, marketing director at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic School (SEASCS), said Steps funds have contributed to the computer lab, purchasing new Surface tablets, Elmos and desks.

“The funds helped implement a flat screen monitor in our school Commons to showcase our weekly activities,” she said. This benefits the students and families by giving updated information. New environmentally friendly water fountains that feature bottle fillers were also installed.

Mentuis added that the event has helped their community by bringing the faculty/staff, students, families and supporters of SEASCS together for friendly competition among other Catholic schools. She said the school has had the opportunity to raise funds for their own school, benefiting families by extending them tuition assistance. “The mission to raise awareness and support for Catholic education has been at the forefront of our fundraising efforts by getting out into the community and showcasing our Catholic school and students,” she said. “We have participated in numerous service projects during the Steps for Students campaign, including food and clothing drives, blankets for cancer patients and travel packets for veterans.”

Coach Marion Jones, athletic director at St. Vincent de Paul Catholic School, encourages all Christians, not just Catholics, to be part of the event.

“It’s a great way to celebrate our Christianity,” he said. “I feel Steps for Students gives every school the opportunity to get the community involved, not just their school community, but all people.”

Jones, who has been part of the planning committee of the event since its inception, said the event has grown exponentially, going from 1,200 attendees during its first year to more than 12,000 last year.

Dr. Vogel said people have to participate in the event to see not only the belief in the value of a Catholic education for children, but also feel the Holy Spirit at work.

“There is something magical about Steps for Students that is difficult to capture in words,” she said. “To be among all of our schools and watch the interactions between school communities is amazing. All you have to do is walk through the Catholic School Village and watch kids from different schools interacting with each other and see parents introducing themselves to other parents because their tents are next to each other for the first time… sharing oranges and drinks with strangers, enjoying each other’s company attending Mass together before the race praying together for a successful, fun-filled morning. Watching our priests and principals outwardly sharing their school spirit with great costumes and running nuns in full habits cannot be found anywhere else!”

She said it’s more than a fundraiser and an opportunity for all schools to realize their part in the much larger Houston Catholic community and to gather and celebrate our families, values and missionary spirit. 

To register for Steps for Students 5K Run, donate or volunteer, visit www.steps4students.org.