Starbucks for Students
Imagine sitting in a Starbucks, working on a project or quietly conversing with a colleague. Now consider that Starbucks located on the second floor of a Kansas City Catholic school, Our Lady of Hope and the project-workers are 7th graders who have learned “soft talk” when teasing out collaborative efforts. This is exactly the environment Our Lady of Hope Middle School teacher Dena Campbell envisioned for her classroom. And according to Dena, the idea is working. Success is partly due to her commitment and partly to the kids themselves. “They want this,” she confirms.
Dena spent the past summer scouring free Craig’s List ads, gathering together the table tops, chairs and white boards necessary to turn rows of desks into a coffee-shop style setting. Not only is the concept a stretch (in a good way!) for her students, it’s a stretch for Dena herself. She admits she likes her classroom set up in rows with everyone alphabetized by name. However, she also knows that for students to be ready for the 21st Century, they need 21st Century Skills. Three of them are collaboration, cooperation and creativity—concepts not encouraged through row-sitting.
Through the innovative classroom arrangement, the students themselves are finding imaginative pathways to confidence. They self-select their sitting groups. Though a youngster can’t be “kicked out” of a group, they can choose to opt out. However, if they do, and aren’t invited into another group, they’re still held responsible for a project’s completion. Their option is to work on it alone. Some do. Others realize they need to develop the skills Dena has identified as vital to their success—collaboration, cooperation and creativity.
Has the new approach made a difference in student’s performance, Dena is asked. She answers that yes, they’re getting through more of their reading material. Yet the biggest difference she notices isn’t as quantifiable. “They help each other, they seem to care more about each other,” she reflects. “And they’re willing to work through the challenges life will present them.” One of those challenges will always be that when you’re sitting around a table together, it’s good to figure out how to get along with the person sitting next to you.
Running to Bright Futures
Our Lady of Hope third grade teacher and track coach Kristin Goers, doesn’t have to say much when asked about her experiences at the school and how they have impacted her life, and the life of the kids she’s known over the years. Her face, lighting up in a smile, says it all. “There are so many experiences,” she explains. “I feel so fortunate. Being a coach is a big part of my life.” So is being a teacher. Kristin has taught at Our Lady of Hope for her entire, 12-year teaching career.
Kristin’s memories stretch back to her own school days when she was running track herself. And she recalls with obvious pride the youngsters she herself has coached over the years. She stays in touch with many of them, following their academic success while applauding their life decisions.
One young man (a fifth grader when she met him), Navardo, has an especially heartwarming story with an ending that is shaping up to be happy. The self-conscious youngster walked into her classroom after moving to the country from Jamaica. “His home life was challenging,” Kristin shared. Perhaps because she sensed he needed a friend, she became one. She also became his coach, though the coaching detoured through a football team.
Recognizing football as a sport with more likelihood for injury, Kristin encouraged him to pass. Navardo insisted, played in his first game and promptly broke his leg. Once it healed—with Kristin helping him get to and from home on his crutches—he joined the track team, and stayed there. “I get to form different relationships with the kids I coach,” she explained. As a coach her relationships often have more impact, more influence for good, for doing God’s work. She realizes how fortunate she is.
Navardo, after completing high school at Rockhurst, is now at Johnson County Community College on his way to a bright future. Kristin Goers couldn’t be more pleased.
by Diana Welsh-Struby, Chair, Bright Futures Fund
As I enjoy these early days of the fall season, I’m delighted—as always—to visit the schools Bright Futures supports and witness the fresh young faces of our diverse student populations. Yet I’m also reminded of all the faces that walked our halls in year’s past. We have such a deep, multi-generational tradition in our Catholic schools. Our beloved alumni are our most blessed legacy. As one of these alumni, I feel compelled to offer a few words of reflection.
We need to keep our connections strong. We need to honor where we’ve been; we need to remember, recognize and revere those who made it possible to be the loving communities of education, faith and hope that we are today.
Saint Stephens, Our Lady of Peace, Assumption, Saint Anthony, Saint Michaels and Holy Rosary were all—at one time—grand traditions of Catholic education. Today that tradition continues at Holy Cross. We are fortunate indeed to have Barbara Deane serve as the school’s principal.
As much as life has changed over the years, the abiding belief in the value of a Catholic education has remained at the core of so much good in our complicated world. Over the years Catholics such as ourselves have come from all over the world to settle in neighborhoods around Kansas City. At one time the area where Holy Cross is now located was a proud Italian community brimming with proud Italian families. The roots of many of today’s Catholic families—such as the Cosentino and Barreca families—first prayed and went to school and came together as community in Kansas City’s Northeast neighborhood. Yes, we all come from somewhere and as we assimilate, we also seek to maintain the culture that deeply defines us.
We must work hard to maintain our Catholic culture and traditions. As the new school year gets underway, I encourage all of us to remember the grand traditions of years gone by and to thank those who led the way to the beloved Church we are today.
"Please let me know if you’d like to join an informal group of alumni who attended Our Lady of Hope or one of the other loving, caring Catholic Schools that nurtured our community for so many years."