The Power of Belief

Note: This article is one I was asked to write on behalf of San Miguel Catholic Middle School. It will be appear as part of a newsletter to parents, donors, community members and students.

The small group of half a dozen students gathered in the studio art room at Bishop Kelly High School shifted in their seats a bit as they contemplated the question they’d just been asked: “What would have been different if you hadn’t been a San Miguel student?” The most interesting thing about their answers is how closely they mirrored one another… and how much the prospect of what might have been different bothered them.

In each case, the young men and women, all juniors or seniors at BKHS and among the earliest San Miguel Tulsa middle school graduates, felt their middle school years taught far more than English and science…  they learned believe in themselves, to push themselves, to achieve.

“We were always encouraged to believe in the possibilities and to be committed to our goals,” said Juan. “It was just expected that we could, and so we did,” he said.

Joe O’Connor, President of San Miguel, understands. “That’s the mission, and it matters. Our students see success and it feeds on itself. We hold our students accountable for achieving, we support them all along the way and we don’t give up on them.” Students say that the accountability makes a difference. “We knew we couldn’t give up, we had to keep pushing and believe we could do it [be a graduate],” said Carlos.

The seniors and some of the juniors gathered for the interview now have goals they found nearly impossible to contemplate six years ago… college degrees and professional career paths. Some have already earned scholarships to their college of choice. With plans from international business to architecture, their horizons are as wide now as they want them to be… and every student in the room said being selected to attend San Miguel made the difference. Some are the first high school graduates in their families and are leading the way for their younger brothers and sisters and their community. Many return regularly to San Miguel for service projects and serve as leaders to the student community as they manifest the mission of believing in the possibilities inherent in each student. All demonstrated the politeness and respect that I’ve noticed are hallmarks of San Miguel students during the many visits I’ve made to the school over the past few years.

San Miguel students arrive early, stay late (study hall until 5 pm is mandatory) and depend on each other and their teachers to make it through the rigorous education. Parents provide service hours to the school, transport kids on trips, cook meals and attend conferences… last year saw a 100% participation rate from parents at parent-teacher conferences. The result is an education that changes more than the knowledge base of a student. It’s an education that changes the possibility base of each student… expanding the opportunities in the whole community along the way. It’s the heart of long-term economic development and growth and it makes a tangible difference in the lives of every family the school touches.

San Miguel is funded almost entirely through donations, and those donations change lives in very real ways. Please consider helping to fund the mission of San Miguel to provide a private, Catholic education to impoverished and underprivileged children, regardless of race or religion.


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4 Responses to “The Power of Belief”

  1. Dora May 5, 2011 at 1:54 am #

    Great article, Mandy, i was a teacher in a middle shcool in China, and it is totally different in education. Parents never provide service hours to the school.

    • Mandy Vavrinak May 5, 2011 at 9:33 am #

      Thanks for reading and commenting, Dora… some people point to China as an example for education because of the longer hours and more rigorous (in some opinions) approach to educating children. However, that seems to be truly institutionalizing the concept of education, and separating it from parental involvement.

  2. Sophie May 6, 2011 at 10:35 am #

    These sort of stories always find a way to hit your heart. I will consider giving a donation.

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