This time of year, the question I get asked the most is, “How is the school year going?”
My one word answer is, “Full!”
Our enrollment is full, and that is a great gift for a Catholic school in this day and age. It is a testament to the momentum that has been building for almost two decades now, turning what was a fledgling experiment into a high-functioning, high-achieving, high-energy force that more and more people want to be a part of.
Our brand new Spark Center for Academics is full! If you haven’t gotten a chance to see it, I hope you get to peek in at some point. It is a beautiful space that is almost twice the square footage that we had in our “proof of concept” room the last two years, and yet despite the extra space it has been regularly packed with students, racking up over 200 visits in the first week of being open!
And while we are excited to see the monetary investment from last year’s auction getting good usage, we are more excited about what that means for the academic culture at St. James. Last year we invited an educational researcher from Multi-Studio to do a third-party review of our available data to see if there seemed to be a measurable impact on students from using the Spark Center. The results of the study were incredibly encouraging. Students with high levels of engagement at the Spark Center scored, on average, .6 of a point higher on the ACT in English and .7 of a point higher in math! That means that for a kid who went to the Spark Center regularly, they could expect a 1.3 point bump on the ACT over someone who never visited.
Now, that’s not to say the Spark Center was the only or even the main reason these students did better than others. But what it does show is that having a dedicated academic space with professionals and student mentors available throughout the day helps encourage and foster that constellation of habits that leads to higher academic achievement. It has helped raise the profile of our academic efforts as a school, normalizing the seeking of help as well as academic challenges amongst our student body and helping further embed our trademark community approach into our academics.
Last but certainly not least, the chapel has been full every morning for Mass. We have been at or near capacity each day, even though most of those days have had no one required to attend. Our chapel seats roughly 250 people in the pews and closer to 300 when we utilize the chairs set out, which means that close to 30% of our school is choosing to start their day in Mass on any given day. It is a truly remarkable phenomenon, a great blessing and gift that begins and ends in God’s grace.
Surely, the days are full as well. Many are already experiencing the pinch of balancing homework and activities with their social and home lives. But amidst the chaos of high school life, it is a sign of great hope that so many families have chosen to walk into a mission that transcends the immediate and seeks the eternal, that so many students choose to come to school early just to pray and worship with their classmates and teachers, and that putting the kingdom first in all that we do has not hindered what we can achieve in the classroom or on the field, but rather enriched and enlivened it.
It has been an incredible start to the year! I hope to keep the momentum going with our first ever Parent Boot Camp next week on September 5th or 6th! If you have not already, please consider RSVPing to come to one of those nights to learn and discuss how we can continue to partner together in creating great experiences in the present that bring great hope for the future!
Your brother in Christ,