Private Schools: Survival Guide: Group Think

If you have a helping hand:

Check out Cleveland Central Catholic High School’s Cleveland READS program.
Like most high school students, Deborah O’Neal’s days are filled with math, English, science and history classes. But when the final bell rings, this junior volunteers through The Third Federal Foundation-sponsored Cleveland Central Catholic High School’s Cleveland READS program. She and about 17 other students work with elementary school children in an after-school care program at University Settlement teaching them to read.

“It’s an amazing experience,” O’Neal says. “I love seeing how kids change and grow over time. I know the kids are benefiting because I can see them accomplish something they thought they couldn’t. They get a sense of pride. But I’m benefiting too. It’s really enriching to help someone else.”

O’Neal, who typically tutors six children during her weekly visits, is considering pursuing a career in child psychology or education, which makes her volunteer time all the more vital. “Plus, I went to a lot of day care when I was a kid,” she recalls. “I know from my own experience that one-on-one help is valuable. It’s a way to give back.”

Or Padua Franciscan High School’s Christmas for Others.
Padua junior and Key Club president Zach Sefcovic spends the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas coordinating Christmas for Others, a fundraising effort that delivers donations to area organizations and families in need. In 2007, the school distributed nearly $25,000 as well as additional food and gifts.

“We kick it off with a rally,” he says. “We invite a DJ, guest speakers and the larger community. When we deliver all the money and gifts, everyone is so empowered.”

Or St. Ignatius High School’s St. Joseph of Arimathea Pallbearer Ministry.
Burying the dead is no less important a service than feeding the hungry, according to the values of St. Ignatius High School’s St. Joseph of Arimathea Pallbearer Ministry, a service group of 300 students that helps families put their deceased to rest. And to senior Roland Mansilla, a volunteer, it’s a privilege.

“This ministry shows people, many of whom are profoundly saddened and have no one to help them, that someone cares,” he notes.


If you love the earth:

Check out Hawken School’s organic garden.
Homemade salsa may be on the cafeteria menu sometime this fall at Hawken School. Last spring, freshmen and first-graders planted tomatoes, peppers, broccoli and other fruits and vegetables in an 800-square-foot organic garden behind the school with a goal to use the produce in school lunches. “The cafeteria food is pretty decent,” says sophomore Rachelle Brenner, who has been working on the garden. “But I think with fresh produce and homemade salsa, it would be better.” Humanities teacher Jim Newman and local restaurateur Doug Katz of Fire Food & Drink developed the idea to teach students about environmental sustainability and the advantages of eating locally grown food. Students have done everything from installing protective fencing to creating a compost pile with waste from the cafeteria. “Getting in the mud and dirt is really fun,” Brenner says. If the garden yields enough, Hawken plans to donate produce to food banks or start a farmers market.

Or Lawrence School’s paperless campus.
Every time senior Matthew Morino opens his IBM Thinkpad to electronically submit an assignment for art class, he is saving paper. Paper waste has been significantly reduced since all of Lawrence School’s middle and high school students have been required to use laptop computers. Morino can access his textbooks online, have them read to him aloud and even create art using the computer’s touch-sensitive screen. “I throw away everything I don’t need in the recycling bin,” he says. “But I never really thought about the computers saving paper. It just makes things easier.” So where does Lawrence School still use paper? Detention slips for one, says academic dean Ryan Masa. “That’s still old school.”

Or Hippies for Happiness at Elyria Catholic High School.
Chris Kapucinski may not be one to wear tie-dye and Birkenstocks around the halls of Elyria Catholic High School, but technically, he could call himself a hippie. The senior is part of an extracurricular group called Hippies for Happiness, which promotes hippie ideals such as world peace and environmental responsibility. “I can see the teacher, Ralph Jaworski, who started the group, being a hippie back in the day,” says Kapucinski. “He came up with the name because we wanted something different that you wouldn’t think a group at a parochial school would call itself.” In addition to social projects such as raising money for Autism Speaks, the group recycles much of the school’s paper waste and plans to pick up around the school’s campus this year.

Sarah Filus

If you’re all about business:

Check out St. Martin de Porres High School’s Corporate Work Study Program.
Imagine working for the Cleveland Indians — while in high school. That’s what St. Martin de Porres High School’s Corporate Work Study Program does for its students, giving them real-world experience in entry-level positions at organizations such as the Cleveland Indians, Sherwin-Williams and others. Students attend traditional classes four days each week and spend the fifth day working at businesses where they earn tuition money and are exposed to the rigors of a professional workplace.
Senior Chelsea Murray, who would like to study pediatric nursing in college, has worked as a clerk at Third Federal Savings & Loan’s Cleveland office and in the mailroom at Jones Day. She was happy to parlay her internship at the law firm into a summer job where she answered phones, delivered mail and interacted with lawyers and paralegals.

“It’s been a good experience,” she says. “I’ve been fortunate to be placed in two different companies and learn about other careers. You never know who you will meet today who could be helpful in the future.”
Or University School’s Entrepreneur Institute Morgan Apprenticeship.
Working with University School graduate Michael Klavora, the president of Sparkle Wash, senior Michael Kovach researched marketing opportunities and helped establish a national maintenance program with Meineke Car Care Center.
“I’d like to start my own business,” says Kovach, who participated in the school’s Entrepreneur Institute Morgan Apprenticeship, a program that gives students extended, hands-on interaction with local entrepreneurs.

“This program gave me a sneak peek at running a business,” he adds. “Michael let me sit in on meetings and see how he interacts with franchisees, customers and the press.”

Or Trinity High School’s Pre-Professional Internship.
Breana Jacobs spent the summer interning at Marymount Hospital, observing pediatricians, oncologists and even surgeons at work. “I thought I wanted to be a surgeon,” she says, “but after working here, I’m finding I’m more inclined toward nursing.”

Jacobs, a junior, is part of Trinity High School’s Pre-Professional Internship Model pilot, where students attend school four days a week and work the fifth.

The program will officially kick off for the class of 2012, but Jacobs provided feedback during the pilot program.

“I’ve learned how competitive the workforce is and how important time management is,” she says.


If you’re creative:
Check out Western Reserve Academy’s Live Music Club.
To know that music is important to Hunt Hearin, listen to his voicemail message: “Hey. It’s Hunt. I play the piano, and I’m not here right now.” The senior at Western Reserve Academy is a member of the school band, jazz band and choir. And in the past three years, he has been instrumental in developing a Live Music Club to get student musicians on stage. Every Tuesday night and many Saturdays, the Live Music Club enlists school bands and solo artists to put on live concerts in the student center. Other musicians in the club run sound, set up or take down. “The idea is for musicians to help other musicians and get involved in the technical side,” said Hearin. “To be a musician, you have to learn some of these skills and support whoever is on stage.” This fall, when the school’s new radio station and recording studio is completed, live musical performances will be broadcast across campus.     
Or Regina High School’s Clown Ministry.
Alexa Petrarca covers her face in white cake makeup and paints a shooting star on her cheek before heading out on stage to dance, sing and mime with the Clown Ministry at Regina High School. Members put on three dramatic faith-based shows each year in full clown makeup, including one that depicts the last hours of Jesus. “It can be a really emotional experience,” she says. But it’s not all straight faces. The group, in its 25th year at Regina, hands out candy in community parades, paints faces for hospitalized children, and visits the elderly as part of a year-round service effort.

Or Walsh Jesuit High School’s Improv Club.

As a freshman at Walsh Jesuit High School, Andrew Burge was challenged by the audience to act like an expert on transcendentalism. He had no idea what the term meant, so he started spouting information about transplanting teeth. He’s come a long way since then. Last year, Burge and his improv cohorts took third place at the Improv Olympics, a Northeast Ohio competition at the Cleveland Play House. The 10-member troupe meets weekly to practice their routines and performs several times a year. “This is about the most fun you can get in a school club,” he says.

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