THE WHOLE CHILD
We know and nurture each individual student, celebrating talents and gifts, promoting curiosity, and supporting their promise as they grow. We want to develop the student, the athlete, the artist, the volunteer, the friend, the citizen, the reader, the communicator, the person of faith.
Top area college-preparatory high schools tell us our students are some of the best prepared.
“Settle into your mindful bodies, take a deep belly breath in and slowly exhale, begin to notice the sensations in your body and how you are feeling in the moment….” This is what you’re likely to hear as the Holy Family School students take time from their busy week to turn their awareness inward and focus on their thoughts, feelings, and actions.
“The students have been developing their mindful practice for almost 4 years,” says Maria O’Brien, Holy Family School’s guidance counselor. “Deep breathing techniques, centering prayer, self-awareness activities, body movement, guided imagery, kindness and compassion exercises, and learning about the brain are some of the ways that they practice being mindful.”
Simply stated, mindfulness is having an awareness of the present moment. It is a purposeful attention to the present moment without judgement. When one is “mindful” they are better able to focus and concentrate. This focus may be on self, others, their relationship with God, or the environment around them.
“Our mindfulness program began when Jamie Lynn Tatera, from Wholly Mindful and a current parent at that time, introduced mindfulness to our middle school students and worked with me to bring mindfulness activities and yoga into the classroom,” explains Maria. “The positive impact was noticed and students reported increased ability to focus, but even more importantly they were developing skills to stop, pause, and self-regulate before immediately acting.”
In 2016, Maria began training in mindfulness fundamentals and curriculum through Mindful Schools and “mindfulness” was added as a scheduled class. Currently kindergarten through fifth grade have 15 minutes of scheduled mindfulness time every week. Maria also does mindful activities with the middle school during their guidance class.
“Mindfulness addresses the needs of the whole child,” says Maria. “At school, we recognize that students come to us with stress, anxiety, and burdens of their own. We acknowledge their need to find ways to self-soothe, reduce stress, and take time to pause and re-energize.” Through mindful activities, students are encouraged to pay attention to themselves and the world around them.
“I have used Mindfulness with my class for the past 3 years.” says current first grade teacher, Angie Gehred. “I have used the mindfulness approach when we’ve been in need of a simple calming activity. Breathing, watching gentle/calming object, quiet and prayer are just a few strategies we add in to our day.”
Fourth grade teacher, Katie Berbaum, also finds using Mindfulness helpful in her classroom. “Before the students go to Reconciliation, we reflect in the classroom,” explains Katie. “I ask them questions and they reflect quietly. I also use meditation and mindfulness videos during our brain breaks.”
“Taking time to slow down and take notice will help them see the unique gifts that God has blessed them with, appreciate those around them, and see the beauty of the world we are living in,” concludes Maria.
Our hope is that the children can take these techniques that they are learning now, and apply them when they are teens and adults.
What do the students think? Here are some quotes from the first graders at Holy Family. “It helps me calm down after all the things I have been doing.” “Mrs. O’Brien’s ocean, sunset and special pictures help me relax.” “The video and quiet help me feel calm. No one yells during this time and I like it quiet.”
The practices taught during these sessions lay the foundation for how to relate to the mind skillfully and settle more fully into centering and heart-centered prayer so that students may experience the true meaning of Psalm 46, verse 11: Be Still and know that I am God.
Holy Family School’s tagline is: DREAM, BELIEVE, ACHIEVE and LEAD. Teaching students to LEAD is something that you just can’t learn out of a book. Students need experiences and opportunities to understand what it means to become a good leader. Student Council and Justice League are a few areas at Holy Family School, where students have those opportunities.
Holy Family Student Council is comprised of members from grades 5-8. In September, students campaign with posters for the hallway and short speeches for their homeroom. Each homeroom elects their representatives and the council is inducted for their year of service in a special ceremony at school mass. At HFS, the student council has three areas of focus: HF community building, service outreach, and fundraising.
At the beginning of the year, Student Council focuses on raising money which they will need for the year to help offset operational costs. Some of the students favorite fundraising events are the “Dirt and Worm” sale at lunch, Hot Chocolate Café, and the Halloween Bake Sale.
The second area of focus is service outreach. Service outreaches educate and engage the entire school population about a need in the larger community. This year, SC partnered with the MacCanon Brown Homeless Sanctuary, a shelter-in-progress working in the most impoverished neighborhood in Milwaukee. SC collected 90 blankets, delivered the donation, and had a tour of the sanctuary. They also organized the making of 100 bag lunches with happy note greetings inside.
And the third area is community building. Community building involves energizing the Holy Family student body with pep rallies and other fun events. They host the annual Halloween Parade and organize many of the Catholic Schools Week activities. In recent years, they have conducted “Minute to Win It” and “What would you do for a Klondike Bar?” games. They end the year with a fun communitywide event like a school-wide scavenger hunt. Each of these events are planned and organized by the student council members with support from their advisors, Jill and Steven Haberman.
“Our lunch hour meetings can get pretty noisy and messy, but their enthusiasm is amazing as they learn team-building, organizing, and troubleshooting skills through their projects.” Jill and Steven comment. “We appreciate the council’s dedication because we meet nearly every Tuesday during lunch/recess, so students are giving up their social time to be involved.”
Another area that Holy Family sees its student become leaders is through the Justice League Program. Each week, 8th graders give up a study period to perform service around the school and parish.
HFS Faith Formation Coordinator, Shannon Matheis, started the Justice League Program 10 years ago. Then principal, Angela Little, wanted a service type project for the 8th graders to do. Not 100% sure what that meant, she asked Shannon, who at that time was the 7th and 8th grade Lit and Religion teacher, to create something Shannon’s answer to Angela’s request was the Justice League. It was a scheduled time during the school day in which the 8th graders did service within Holy Family. During the first year of Justice League, the 8th graders created the name and logo for the t-shirts that are still used today. “Justice League became a place for peer mentoring opportunities and a place for the 8th grade class to have a culminating experience before graduation and moving on to high school.” explains Shannon. “It also offered each 8th grade class an opportunity to leave its mark upon the school by meeting special needs that the school might have needed that year.”Currently, Jill and Steve Haberman run the Justice League Program.
“I really like both of these leadership opportunities.” says parent of a student who is on both student council and Justice League. “The students love the chance to make decisions, try to think of new things to do, and be role models for the younger students, all while remembering their faith.”
“If we want to create the leaders of tomorrow, there is no better time to develop our students as leaders of today.” –unknown
79% of graduates were on their high school honor rolls
46% of graduates were on their high school high honor rolls
14 high school valedictorians since 1997