Our Lady of Victory Catholic School Principal Samantha Weakland loves when she walks down the hall at the school and hears a kindergartener and a middle schooler in conversation.
“(They will) call each other by name, and have a genuine concern for each other,” Weakland said. “That community feel is what the Faith Families do for our school.”
At OLV, a Faith Family is a group of students — kindergarten through eighth grade — with about 18 students, two from each grade. OLV offers Catholic education for children in preschool through middle school.
Students remain with their Faith Family for the entire time they spend at OLV.
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“This builds community across all grade levels and further increases the family atmosphere. Students get to know each other beyond their grade, and interact and learn from them,” Weakland said. “Often times, younger students need a little more support or guidance; a middle school student from their Faith Family may be asked to talk to them. Hearing from an older student makes a big impact.”
“My son Ty loves being with the older kids,” said Kristy Urgo, parent of an OLV kindergartener. “They make him feel so special and treat him so well.”
Jessica Hauser, a kindergarten teacher at OLV, believes that Faith Families are especially important for her students. “Having (older) students around the school that they know makes them feel more comfortable and happy (at school).”
Faith Families meet once a month and participate in team building activities, prayer services, service activities and even athletic activities.
“My favorite Faith Family activity so far this year has been the running races. It taught sportsmanship and teamwork over winning as the ultimate goal,” said OLV kindergarten teacher Jennifer Rogan.
Hauser’s favorite Faith Family activity was playing “Where Do You Stand.” The game challenges the players have to pick between two items/preferences (e.g. ice cream or cake). “During that game (all the students) were able to learn about each other’s varying interest and experiences.”
Faith Families enhance the school’s Catholic curriculum and supports our school’s mission of developing students academically, spiritually and socially — in short, the whole person.
“As a teacher, I also enjoy Faith Families because it allows me to become reacquainted with some of my former students and see how they have grown into their new personalities,” Rogan said.
“My children all love Faith Families. It is a wonderful thing to have a cross-section of ages working together and building relationships throughout their time at OLV,” said Kelly Kurpeikis, who is a parent of four students at OLV.
Faith Families began in August of the 2016-17 school year after Weakland came up with the idea in a conversation with a school family.
“A positive school climate is essential to the success of a school,” she said. “When all stakeholders feel connected and part of a family then great things can happen.”
And having real connections to a greater school family is one thing that makes OLV a unique and inviting place to learn and grow.
“I have to say I was a nervous wreck about kindergarten,” Urgo said. “OLV has been amazing for Ty and our family. (They) do a wonderful job of making the younger kids feel at home and part of community, so we knew OLV (is) the right choice for him.”
“At OLV, we want the students know that they are unique and special and that they should work together to make our classes, our school, our community and our world a better place,” Weakland said.
At the end of last year, each Faith Family made graduation cards for their eighth-graders. Many of the eighth-graders told Weakland those cards held particular meaning for them. As one student was showing her parents and Weakland the card, she said, “I love these kids, this card I will keep forever.”
That is what family is all about.
Kathy Peters is a parent of three children at OLV and one child at St. Joseph’s Catholic Academy.
For more information
More information about Our Lady of Victory Catholic School and Faith Families can be found at www.olvcatholic school.org. Families interested in learning more about kindergarten at OLV are invited to come to the Kindergarten Open House at 12:15 p.m. Feb. 2.