St. Peter School to transform into first Catholic career, tech high school in Texas

March 22, 2022

This rendering shows plans for a new Catholic high school in the Archdiocese. Preparations to launch St. Peter Catholic Career and Technical High School is underway, as leaders work to raise an estimated $6.5 million to start construction this summer to welcome up to 200 students in its first phase of opening in 2023. The new school will be located off Old Spanish Trail near SH 288 in Houston’s Riverside Terrace community. (Rendering courtesy of the Catholic Schools Office)

HOUSTON — Partnering with nearby downtown Houston businesses, the Texas Medical Center, and others who need a professionally trained workforce, the Archdiocese is opening the state’s first Catholic Career and Technical High School.

Daniel Cardinal DiNardo said plans are to renovate St. Peter the Apostle Catholic School, a parochial elementary and middle school shuttered since May 2019, into the St. Peter Catholic Career and Technical High School.

Located on a 10-acre campus off Old Spanish Trail near the 610 Freeway, the two-story brick building will offer programs for careers first in information technology and web development; business, marketing and finance; education and training; and architecture and construction.

“Our goal is to provide an affordable Catholic education for students who want to develop the skills they need to become working professionals after high school graduation,” Cardinal DiNardo said. “This school’s particular focus on job-readiness will go together with its commitment to forming virtuous young people who will bear witness to Jesus Christ in the world.”

Students will have hands-on experience with industry-standard software and technology to be professionally competent in their chosen career paths, said Debra Haney, superintendent of Catholic Schools.

“Students can choose to go on to associate degree programs, four-year colleges, or they can go directly into the workforce with certifications to do jobs that are needed by industry,” said Haney, in the midst of hiring the school’s new principal.

Renovations to the existing school as well as adding new technology and equipment require funding from supportive community and business groups, Haney said.

Dedicated volunteers and Church officials have been meeting with several individuals, businesses and organizations, including the Scanlan Foundation, for potential partnerships to open the school.

An estimated $6.5 million is needed by this June for construction to begin Phase 1 prior to the scheduled August 2023 school opening. Partnerships can also include businesses offering internships to students and opportunities for their own company’s experts to be specialized instructors at the school to train students for the workplace.

The school is designed to accommodate up to 200 students during Phase 1, beginning with an incoming freshman class of 50 students in 2023. As enrollment grows, Phase 2 would add a transportation, distribution and logistics career path, while Phase 3 would add health, science and pharmacy technology.

On the St. Peter advisory board, Mark Letsos Jr., owner and president of Lambda Specialties, a commercial equipment company, said the board has been planning these past 30 months to have the new school benefit both students and Houston businesses alike.

“St. Peter Catholic has been the product of two and a half years of prudent planning by an advisory board composed of a diverse group of individuals from various industries and backgrounds throughout Houston,” Letsos said.

A parishioner at St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Church, Letsos explained, “The St. Peter Catholic career programs were selected based on future job market projections, well-paying sustainable careers, leverageable skills across multiple industries and post-graduation continuing education.”

Father Evaristus Chukwu, pastor of St. Peter the Apostle Church, adjacent to the school campus, is also serving on the school’s advisory board. Ordained as a priest in 2011 in Nigeria before coming to the United States in 2014, Father Chukwu said, “This school would be a life-changer!”

“It is my hope that with this school, the students will build a bright future for themselves,” he said.

Also, among those serving on the school’s advisory board is Mark Amelang, president and CEO of AlignESG, consulting companies on environmental, social and governance policies.

The Houston native epitomizes the types of students that St. Peter hopes to attract. First-born of six children, Amelang said he is a first-generation college student from an economically disadvantaged background. That experience gives him the passion in believing education is key to building strong families and societies that propel kids out of poverty.

His parents met as students at Marian Catholic High School in Bellaire, and they raised their six children on the importance of Catholic education. Amelang started school at St. Anne Catholic School in Houston. But his father was a machinist working shifts, and the family could not afford to send their children to college.

Yet after his family moved to Alabama, Amelang graduated from John Carroll Catholic High School in Birmingham, where the teen worked three jobs to afford tuition. He has been a parishioner for more than 20 years at St. Theresa Catholic Church in Memorial along with his wife Karina, a lawyer, and family.

“After graduation, I joined the U.S. Navy and was the top graduate of the Naval Nuclear Power School. The Navy also paid for my undergraduate degree,” he said. “I credit my Catholic education as the reason for my success in life. It not only gave me the excellent educational foundation to test into the Naval Nuclear Power program, but it gave me a belief in myself and a strong conviction that I could succeed. That ‘whole child’ education is critical and is one of the reasons Catholic schools are so successful.”

He has since received his Executive MBA from Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio and is now working on his doctorate in education at the University of St. Thomas, where he is also an adjunct professor at its Cameron School of Business.

“God has given me great blessings in life, and my focus now is to help others to achieve their dreams and learn to believe in themselves. That is why I am so passionate about… the mission of St. Peter Catholic in particular… filling a vital but missing role for our city,” he said.

Dr. Nicole McZeal Walters, Dean of the Kolbe School of Innovation and Professional Studies and associate professor of educational leadership at the University of St. Thomas, has also served on the high school’s advisory board. “We are preparing students to compete in a global society with a Catholic lens of faith and dignity of the human person while providing opportunities,” she said.

Walters added, “A graduate of a [Duchesne Academy of the Sacred Heart], I am a direct recipient of an excellent education, and I see the value and merit in what we’re doing. It is our gift to this community.”

To learn more or to donate and support the new school, call 713-741-8704 or visit online.