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Week 10 Highlights: Communities of Caring–and Tennis

As we have said before, our schools are communities first. This week–the last week of classes–we are delighted to see that even if coursework is winding down for a few weeks before summer school, the life-giving connections our schools forge show little sign of slowing.

David Ellis, librarian at St. Mark the Evangelist school and a poet, is expanding the ways that he shares a love of books and writing with students, through an Instagram live series of readings by published authors. This week, Danielle M. Chéry, a fellow educator and author of Peers, Cheers, and Volunteers, dropped in to share the book’s inspirational story. We love how Mr. Ellis continues to create a culture of empowerment and literacy for St. Mark’s, exposing students not only to great stories but to an entire orbit of writers who are also community members.


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And in a really cool expansion of community, Our Lady Queen of Angels student and tennis aficionado Dylan Ortiz got a chance to chat with tennis legend Billy Jean King this week!

Dylan met Ms. King because OLQA first and second graders take tennis lessons, thanks to the school’s relationship with the Johnny Mac Tennis Project on Randall’s Island. OLQA P.E. teacher Brian Taylor manages the collaboration, through which some students are given scholarships to continue lessons at JMTP beyond second grade, and sixth grader Dylan is one of those. The Johnny Mac Tennis Project even profiled his love of the sport last year.

To see a video about Dylan’s participation in the Johnny Mac Tennis Program, click here.

As Catholic schools, particularly in a time when access to live worship is restricted, we are communities of faith.

Third grader Jezabelle from Sacred Heart reminded us of that during an art opportunity this week. When asked to draw her favorite thing, she picked her first communion rosary–a poignant reminder that many of our students have prepared for sacraments such as First Communion this year and are awaiting the opportunity to receive them.

And third grader Adam from St. Athanasius wrote a poem to Mary, apt in this month that Catholics traditionally dedicate to her:

In a characteristic act of joyful faith, Vincent Hale from OLQA continued “Worship Wednesdays” this week, leading students through vocal warm-ups and movement not just to provide the instruction that makes him a dynamic music teacher, but to lift up the community in prayer and praise. And at the request of members of his school community, he is going to keep doing “Worship Wednesdays” even after classes end this week.


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We love the moment when Mr. Hale responds cheerfully to an invisible student chat comment, “No, Maurice, you can’t sit down!” (Minute 13:20) It was one of the most “normal school” things we’ve heard in a while!

We are also communities of service.

St. Athanasius eighth grader Hailey helped other community members pack and deliver three hundred bags for senior citizens:

And beloved neighbor to Mt. Carmel-Holy Rosary School–Rao’s Restaurant–is not only helping the Partnership community through its #OneBigRaosFamily effort (be sure to see how you can support us and enjoy pasta!) but is also serving food to essential health workers:

Implicit in all of these forms of connection is the truth that we are communities of love. This week, soon-to-be graduates lead the way in showing us what that means. In reflections shared along with their pictures, OLQA students showed how much they love and appreciate the work their teachers do.

When asked what his favorite memory of OLQA will be, Max said “the kindness of all the staff and their perseverance.”

And Jaden noted, “I started off at OLQA far behind everybody else. Despite that, Mr. Beller showed me the way to do better, and be all I could be, and he helped me become the young man I am today.”

These are just two of many students sharing their experiences. In coming weeks, we’ll have more chances to see and celebrate eighth graders from across Partnership Schools on our schools’ social media, and to glimpse what they value from their time with us. Their growth is at the heart of what can keep our communities thriving–not just through these strange days, but for decades to come.