Historic Catholic School Announces Closure by: Rylee Jung

Historic Catholic grade school, St. Aloysius on the Ohio (St. Al’s), announced its closure for the upcoming school year due to lack of finances. After 149 years of business, St. Al’s has fallen upon hard financial times from low enrollment and lack of parish support. Though small in community, the loss that is felt among the families and alumni of St. Al’s is huge. Current students and staff, retired staff, and alumni have come forward to share the importance of Catholic education and vouch for their tiny school with a big legacy.

Averaging around ninety students a year, St. Aloysius on the Ohio’s small, family-like community is its defining quality that everyone – students, alumni, and staff alike – agrees. In this tiny environment, relationships between the students and one another, the students and their teachers, and teachers with parents thrive. Current student Carter Jung explains, “It’s a small school, it’s very special to me…I have my friends there, I’ve been with them since preschool.” St. Al’s is a one class per grade school; therefore, students are with the same kids in every class, every year they are at St. Al’s. Teacher Jennifer Ostertag recognizes that her students “look out for each other. They show compassion and love to one another every day.” This closeness creates a bond that lasts beyond their grade school years. Alum Tom Jung, class of 1984, recalls that he is “still friends with at least half of the people that I graduated with from St. Al’s.” A family atmosphere is created by these strong bonds with one another. Alum Anna Hoferer, class of 2014, describes this feeling as “a close-knit family. There is no possible way to feel as though you are alone in anything because the whole community is always there for any support needed.” The family atmosphere then transcends to the school community and the relationships students have with their teachers. Principal Kristen Penley explains that the school community is “a tight knit group of dedicated parents, faculty, and students. The school environment is energetic and collaborative.” Current student Megan Armstrong notes that what she likes most about St. Al’s is the connection she has with her teachers. With a ten to one student teacher ratio, teachers are able to “truly know their students” (Penley).

With a “tiny but mighty” (Penley) mentality, the school really does show its might through academics. With a small community and small classes, teachers are able to give their students the individualized attention that other schools cannot give. Jennifer Ostertag explains that she feels grateful to teach at St. Al’s which gives her the “opportunity to work one on one with each student to help them achieve success.” Alum Caroline Klug, class of 2015, points out that “The curriculum at St. Al’s is at a higher level and the student to teacher ratio allowed me to learn something new every day and get help if I needed it.”  Alum Shay Espich, class of 2017, follows her point closely by saying that the teachers “focused more on the parts of the lesson that their students were struggling with and what activities would help them” more than their own work such as grading. The main focus on the school is the student’s success. Penley explains that “students have individualized attention with their teachers which helps build confidence and understanding.” The confidence that is key to successful education comes not only from the attention of the teacher but also a comfortable class environment. Tom Jung explains that “the more people know you, the more comfortable you are in your surroundings, the better you’re going to learn.” He goes on to discuss that all aspects of his Catholic education – Mass, May crowning, sacraments – allowed him to create a bond with his classmates which led to him not having “that fear of failure and that fear of being judged.” Carter Jung also adds that he enjoys his smaller class sizes because “people don’t talk as much. If there was a bigger class, there would be more distractions.”

With hundreds of alumni joined with current students, the legacy of St. Al’s is huge. Tom Jung explains that he lives out the legacy of St. Al’s by “sending my kids there…[and] being part of the infrastructure now.” Tom Jung currently is the athletic coordinator for St. Al’s and teaches Baptism class and attends PTC meetings with his wife Marci Jung. Alum Anna Hoferer says her legacy involves her entire family: “My family has been large supporters of St. Al’s for a while…from St. Al’s library to the food booth at the festival to the PTC board, my family genuinely loves to be included in anything St. Al’s related.” Jean Hoferer, dedicated her life to encouraging the students’ love for reading and being the St. Al’s librarian for many years – even using her old home as the library building. Now that the school faces closure, students, alumni, and staff must decide how they will continue to live on the St. Al’s legacy in their lives. Kristen Penley, after working at St. Al’s for fifteen years, “hope[s] our students remember their love of learning and the excitement they had to come to school each day” and says that “St. Al’s will forever hold a special place in my heart.” Current students Carter Jung and Megan Armstrong plan to continue “being a good listener, a good reader, and a good friend” (Jung) and “wearing some of their spirit wear” (Armstrong) to keep the name alive. Alum Caroline Klug plans to “continually remind myself of the lessons I learned there such as supporting my friends and family and being someone people can trust.” Another alum Shay Espich says she will continue the legacy by “being the great person that all of my old peers and teachers taught me how to be.” As a parent and active parishioner, Tom Jung plans on continuing the legacy of St. Al’s in a different way. Jung recognizes that St. Al’s is not the only parish that is facing decreasing numbers. Other parishes that once held large followings are now dealing with smaller budgets and less volunteers. Jung believes he “can bring some comfort and some morale boost to a bigger parish that might be shrinking” by having experience with a small school community. The St. Al’s name will continue to live on in the hearts and minds of its community.

Though St. Al’s is unique, it is a part of a large community of Catholic grade schools. In the Cincinnati area, there are a steady supply of Catholic churches and schools, and they each different missions to pass on the faith to the next generation. To the students, Catholic education gives them a safe environment to learn about the faith and what it means to them. It also is an opportunity to deepen friendships in a unique way and learn valuable lessons that are not taught anywhere else. Shay Espich likes going to a Catholic school because “faith is an outstanding virtue” and “Catholic schools put more work into being a family rather than just people who see each other for six hours a day.” Carter Jung enjoys his Catholic education because “You get to go to church a lot and respect and worship God and that can lead you to good things.” Catholic schools are able to implement lessons to deepen and challenge the students’ faith as they go through so they are able to have an understanding of what their faith means to them. Anna Hoferer claims that “a massive part of my Catholic school education is the principle that you should trust in God and believe that He will lead you to the right path.” Through preparing for sacraments, celebrating Mass, retreats, and volunteering together, Catholic schools give its students plenty of opportunities to own, live, and connect with their faith. To the staff and parents of the students, this Catholic influence is truly appreciated as they look upon the foundation that is being built. While looking back on his own Catholic education and the lessons it taught, Tom Jung recalls that “I really have an appreciation of how important that it is to the Catholic faith. To take time away from your studies and focus on God, focus on your faith, focusing on practicing your faith.” Retired St. Al’s teacher, Mary Ann Hensley explains that “Our religion classes center on the life of Christ and his disciples. We try to instill in the students the idea of living a Christlike life.” Kristen Penley discusses how the Catholic education has a positive influence on students because “we teach children that our faith is part of our everyday life…I like to believe that we work with the parents to establish a strong moral compass for their children.” Catholic education is critical for the blossoming Christian as the institution is equally focused on the education, and moral and faith development of the student. Caroline Klug adds that “Catholic schools make sure their students grow as not only students academically but also as individuals who know how to love and serve others and God in everything they do.” There is a community aspect that is built among the students that encourages them to go out and serve others while witnessing their faith and bringing home a gleaming report card.

Historic grade school St. Al’s may have reached its last year in business, but its legacy has just begun. As their former students search for a new place to call home, there is no telling what they will do to show their St. Al’s pride no matter where they end up. With the lessons that St. Al’s taught them with the support of the Catholic education community, one can be confident that these kids will go on to do great things.

Works Cited

St. Aloysius on the Ohio. Facebook. 23 January 2014, https://www.facebook.com/saotobolts/. Accessed 29 January 2018

St. Aloysius on the Ohio. Facebook. 10 January 2017, https://www.facebook.com/saotobolts/. Accessed 29 January 2018
St. Aloysius on the Ohio. Facebook. 30 May 2017, https://www.facebook.com/saotobolts/. Accessed 29 January 2018

The heART of Cincinnati By: Audrey McQuillan

Have you ever been to an art festival? Have you ever seen extravagant murals on the sides of buildings come to life? The art organization BLINK visited downtown Cincinnati October, 2017. BLINK is a homegrown Cincinnati product that showcases the Cincinnati region as an innovative, inclusive and creative future city.  Cincinnati is now introducing new art museums and festivals. Art has influenced both lives of citizens and many countries throughout the world

Art falls on a grand scale and a personal level. In this case, BLINK falls on the grand scale of art. According to Rich Walburg,BLINK communications director, “Artists were asked to submit their ideas and concepts. Additionally, the BLINK team traveled to similar events in Australia and Europe”. Artists from all over the world came together, and developed their different ideas to create BLINK. Sixty of the one hundred artists from BLINK are from the Cincinnati region. This statistic makes this event even more special, now that Cincinnati artists have contributed their masterpieces. This festival is an excellent way to highlight the different art found in Cincinnati; however, the real question here is how did they project all of the animations onto these murals? Walburg continues to explain, “BLINK worked with Production Resource Group (PRG), a company that has worked on the Super Bowl halftime show, the Grammys, Oscars, Broadway and Las Vegas productions, and national concert tours. They provided the technology for projection mapping on 22 buildings as well as lighting effects on three additional buildings”.  The Production Resource Group teamed up with some of the other special events that are popular or have even been aired on TV. Why would someone not want to witness the different murals come to life? This way of projecting art on to buildings with special technology is what makes the BLINK festival so popular. All of these different factors of displaying Cincinnati Art, Art from around the world, and the special effects and animation from the PRG would contribute to well attended event. Rich Walburg discusses the positive effects for the Cincinnati Region, “BLINK brought over one million visitors to downtown Cincinnati and Over-the-Rhine during its four-day October run. Many of those visitors visited restaurants, bars and shops for the first time – and they’re likely to come back for more. More importantly, BLINK put Cincinnati on a new international map as a creative future city. Artists and techies know that the Cincinnati region is a community they’d be proud to call home.” As Walburg explained, the BLINK festival also aided in introducing the newly opened bars, restaurants, and shops. The BLINK festival also opened doors for Cincinnati on the international map. This event helped get Cincinnati back on the market, and informed people on what Cincinnati has to offer. The BLINK organization like any organization has a history. Walburg illustrates the history of BLINK, “The concept started with two separate ideas. On the same day in 2015, both Brave Berlin and The AGAR approached Tim Maloney of the Haile Foundation with ideas for art events. It was Maloney’s genius that realized the projection mapping and Over-the-Rhine mural events would be better together. ArtWorks was then invited to curate light-based, immersive art. The Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber joined BLINK in 2016 because of our expertise in producing large-scale events, like Taste of Cincinnati and Oktoberfest Zinzinnati.” The Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber is educated in planning enormous events with a history of successful Cincinnati events such as Oktoberfest and the Taste of Cincinnati. BLINK’s partnership with them has aided them in becoming more improved event, with over one million in attendance. This mixture of ideas aided in a successful event. Aside from becoming an outstanding and famously known artists, like some featured in BLINK, it takes work and determination.

Art, on a personal level, is found throughout many high schools. Seton High school’s art and photography teacher Erin Vanover discusses the factors of a great artist “Perseverance.  accepting that you will fail and that is okay. Accepting that there is a lot of artists and art varieties.  You must be able to take criticism.  People will either hate your work, love it, find something wrong with it… just stay strong in knowing what the value is to you. Every person is an artist in his or her own way. Some people can design, some can take amazing photographs, some people just “think” creatively.” With these traits anyone could become an artist. At birth everyone is an artist in their own way and might not even know it. Art can be both relaxing, and or stressful it’s just the way the audience and the artist views the piece of work. Vanover continues to explain her own personal experience with art, and how it has impacted the community, “ Art has impacted communities by bringing them together.  All cultures and people can relate to art and find meaning and evoke feelings. BLINK was a huge success!  It brought thousands of people downtown.  On the other hand, some art can be controversial, it can spark disagreements and unrest.  But, overall, I feel that art has a positive impact on our communities.  

In Price Hill, the community holds a cultural festival. People may not speak the same language, but can visually see the same subject matter, so it can be a form of communication.  The Cincinnati Art Museum has many programs and evenings where people can gather around art and have fun events such as Art After Dark.” Between the different art museums, murals, and events, Cincinnati is an uprising city of art. Art is a way of expression of the different feelings, cultures, and talents of many citizens in the Cincinnati area.

Inside Look into All-Girl Schools By: Rylee Jung

What comes to mind when you think about an all-girl school? Plaid skirts, starchy uniforms, and snobby rich girls or weird geniuses? A place where girls are surrounded by one another in a campus that is teeming with drama and the hardest class is learning how to perfect a home cooked meal? These stereotypes could not be more wrong. All-girl schools are filled with your average teenage girl who was looking for a different approach to their education. All-girl schools are focused on the self-empowerment and confidence of their students. It creates an environment with many unique benefits for its students and surrounds them in a loving place with a whole sisterhood and years of memories to be cherished forever. All-girl schools create a supportive and academically rigorous environment that benefits every student that walks through its doors.

There are many stereotypes that surround all-girl schools. Students of these all-girl schools are not unaware of the critique others may have of our unique environment. Schools are viewed as extremely restrictive, ruled by men-hating feminists, offering only easy classes, and absolutely drowning in gossip and drama. However, the reality of these schools are radically different. Some students who were not a part of the private school system argue that uniforms suppress individuality and take away the students’ right to express themselves. However, Megan Igel, Seton High School alum of the class of 2015 remembers, “I never felt stifled by our uniform. In fact, my uniform was one of my favorite parts about going to an all-girl school.” Igel even adds that “I still felt I had lots of opportunities to express myself through my personal style.” These rules that seem “restrictive” to students actually create a level ground among peers and allows the focus to be on school and not looking a certain way. Most all-girl school alums look back on their uniforms fondly and cherish the skirts they once dawned daily. Another stereotype that all-girl schools have about them is being full of men hating feminists. All-girl schools often fall into the negative stereotypes that come along with feminism. Craig Maliborski, principal of St. Ursula Academy, explains, “All-girl schools should be feminist institutions and should be unapologetic in saying so.” However, the feminism all-girl schools promote is the kind that “celebrates the gifts and talents of women, and strives for these things to be recognized equally in our society” (Maliborski) instead of simply men hate. In this unequal and stereotypical view, somehow all-girl schools are deemed easier or not as academically challenging as other institutions. They are referred to as “daycares” or other academically lesser environments. Tricia McHale, a student at Seton High School class of 2018, discusses how, “To some, all-girl schools serve as norming more than a buffer time for young women to prepare for their expected role as a mother or caregiver.” This stereotype is derived from the idea that all-girl schools are just modern versions of a “finishing school” in which girls learn skills like proper manners, table etiquette, and how to take care of a home. This is also where the idea that all-girl schools are not true, academic institutions. Karen White, principal of Seton High School, addresses the stereotype that states, “the work is somehow easier in an all-female setting rather than a co-ed setting.” However, the students and principals of these all-girl schools say otherwise. White explains how she sees her students fighting these stereotypes by, “their involvement in traditionally male classes/organization such as IT, STEAM, engineering, and other academically challenging classes.” McHale reflects on her experience by saying, “I witness such dedication put into the subjects that girls care about. Even when their hard work is belittled, I know that my classmates want to prove their worth as a person and a student.” The final stereotype usually said about all-girl schools is the overwhelming amount of drama a school of over five hundred girls could produce. Emma Vansteenkistie, Mount Notre Dame alum from the class of 2014, discusses how, “People who have never been to an all-girl school think of it as a place full of drama and boy phobia.” She follows this common stereotype by assuring that “These things couldn’t be further from the truth. Going to an all-girl school, there was very little drama”. Current Mount Notre Dame student, senior Mary Angela Guye, closely follows this point saying, “People assume there would be a lot more drama, but from what I have experiences there is so much less drama!! All drama tends to stay out of school.”

 

Many principals, students, and alums of these all-girl schools claim that they are strong person they are today because of their experience at an all-girl school. All-girl schools create a unique environment in which girls have a place that encourages them to be strong leaders, have confidence in who they are, focus on themselves and their passions, and receive special support from an entire sisterhood of students and staff. High school is a place where adolescents are prepared to be the next driving force in society. Students must learn what interests them and what they are passionate about. They also must learn how to take on leadership roles that could eventually lead to high impactful jobs. At all-girl schools, “girls are the leaders of every club, team, and organization” (Maliborski). This environment of girl empowerment is vital for girls to become strong leaders in adult society. Christine Brookbank, St. Ursula Academy alum and current teacher at Seton High School, discusses how all-girl schools, “propels young women into leadership roles, which is still desperately needed in corporations and government.” Brookbank remembers that “In college I also found myself being fearless – asking questions in class and pursuing leadership opportunities on campus – because we were always encouraged to lead in our high school environment.” This environment of powerful women boosts the confidence of the whole student body. White comments that “being in an all-girl school allows students to be comfortable in their own skins”. One way Seton High School promotes self-confidence is through its positivity club, StrongHer. White explains that through StrongHer, “students can connect with one another and spread positive messages to each other and our school community.” Seton student, Tricia McHale, adds that “StrongHer sets an impeccable example of supporting girls, with positive messages and empowering activates led for students.” Another way that all-girl schools boost self-confidence is through a lack of distractions. Mount Notre Dame alum, Emma Vansteenkiste explains, “Girls tend to act differently when they are around guys and having an environment with none of those distractions allows girls to be their true self…this gives girls a strong self-awareness, which gives girls a high self-esteem…going to an all-girl school gave me a really high self-esteem because I was confident of who I was and who I still am now.” This unique confidence is built upon the focus being on the students. Alums and current students reflect on this and agree that the uniforms, staff attention, and personal growth were all key parts of their confidence and self-development. Both Seton alum, Megan Igel, and current Seton student, Tricia McHale, agree that uniforms created a level playing field among students. Megan Igel explains that “It was so nice to not thin ‘what am I going to wear?’ or ‘who do I need to impress today?’…When I was at school, I could focus on what was really important – learning.” Tricia McHale comments, “Though wearing a uniform can be frustrating at times, all are equalized…the focus is placed on learning, which enables girls to know that they are more than just their appearances.” Therefore, those pesky dress codes do have a method behind the seemingly restrictive madness. In an all-girl school, the focus of the staff is fully on the student. Current Mount Notre Dame student, Mary Guye, comments that “I think that the teachers and students alike can be more upfront and real on what they are saying.” This open speech results in students finding, “good mentors in my [their] teachers” (Guye). This is followed closely by Megan Igel who remembers, “the close bond I had with many of my teachers. They served as really great role models.” All-girl schools in general just have this open environment in which girls can truly grow. Emma Vansteenkiste explains, “Going to an all-girl high school, I was able to focus on just being me and not worry about how I looked or saying something embarrassing. Not worrying about those little things gave me a really strong sense of self.” Finally, all-girl high schools have a special environment in which a student has the full support of the staff as well as a loving sisterhood. Megan Igel identifies that “I knew I could feel free to go out on a limb or say whatever I was thinking because my Seton sisters would have my back.” This support carries on with the students and causes them to be more confident and empowered outside of school (Igel). Tricia McHale comments that all-girl schools have, “such a high level of school pride and enthusiasm for the community surrounding the students…such a caring world is developed at all-girl schools, with each girl looking out for another and helping them to succeed.”

 

Not only do all-girl schools encourage self-empowerment and self-confidence, but they have many other benefits as well! All-girl schools create a strong learning environment, encourage girls to find their passion, and give them a strong faith foundation. As alums go to college, they appreciate the rigorous coursework they once dreaded saying, “I received such a strong education…and I am definitely still benefitting from that strong foundation as a college student” (Igel). All-girl schools also encourage their students to find what they are passionate about. White notes that the students, “encourage one another to find their passion and talents and develop them.” This encouragement leads to students like Tricia McHale seeing her classmates truly shine every day. McHale explains, “Each and every day I walk through the halls, I witness such a dedication put into the subjects that girls care about.” This encouragement goes beyond the walls of high school as Brookbank, comments that “Being in an all-female environment during those formative years of my life inspired me to pursue my passions”. Another unique benefit that all-girl schools has is the formation of a strong faith. Megan Igel recalls some of her favorite high school memories are days when, “we attended Mass, had prayer services, or Eucharistic Adoration together. It was incredible to get to share in those moments of faith with my classmates”. Faith is such a personal thing that students at all-girl schools get to share in a special way.

 

Another unique part of attending an all-girl school are the special traditions These intangible staples of all-girl education are as meaningful to students and alums as the physical reminders such as uniform skirts and yearbooks. These traditions are unique to every girl in every different school. Seton alum Megan Igel cherishes, “class retreats, especially Kairos. These days reflecting with my fellow students were really special to me.” These class retreats are meant to strength the bond between fellow students in an intense and spiritual way. Mount Notre Dame students have different traditions. Alum Emma Vansteenkiste fondly recalls the Senior Dance Marathon. This was an event that the seniors stayed up all night together to prepare a ten-minute-long dance routine to perform in front of the school the next day. She remembers, “When I was finally a senior and got to perform with all my classmates in front of the entire school it was so much fun because it was something we were all looking forward to since we were freshman.” Another memory Emma has is the, “Friday pasta bar…there was never any shame for getting a plate full of carbs.” Current MND senior Mary Guye has a different favored tradition. Guye explains, “We do a cheer at the end of each assembly…at pep rallies and sports games to whatever team is playing. It’s just something special that you get to participate in all 3 years and then get to be the center of it senior year.” Another favorite tradition comes from Brookbank who recalls, “singing our school song…at every school mass. All of the students would link shoulder to shoulder and wave back and forth belting the lyrics.” Little events and traditions that are unique to one’s school and community of sisters spans over many generations and thousands of girls who are bonded by their shared experience at their all-girl school.

 

Attending an all-girl school is a unique experience that greatly defies the stereotypes about them. The realities of these schools are their core values of instilling self-empowerment and self-confidence in their female students. They provide other benefits such as close staff relationships and strong faith communities. They give their students four years-worth of memories and traditions that they won’t soon forget.