CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia Governor Jim Justice signed a proclamation recognizing Catholic Schools Week in West Virginia, which will be held Jan. 28-Feb. 3. This year’s theme is “Catholic Schools: Lead, Learn, Serve, Succeed.”
“I hereby support the goals of Catholic Schools Week and recognize the vital contributions of Catholic elementary and secondary schools,” Governor Justice states in the proclamation. The governor also affirmed the contributions Catholic schools make to West Virginia, as well as their “academic excellence.” The schools were commended for having a graduation rate near 99 percent and for encouraging students to pursue higher levels of education after graduation. More than 98 percent of Catholic school graduates enter a post-secondary education institution, attending nearly 60 colleges and universities. As the largest private education system in West Virginia, Catholic schools offer a viable alternative to public education and attract families and businesses to the state, according to diocesan officials.
“I congratulate the Catholic schools, students, parents and teachers across the Mountain State for their ongoing contributions to education and for the key role they play in promoting and ensuring a brighter and stronger future for West Virginia and the nation,” Governor Justice states in the proclamation.
Richard M. Barnabei, superintendent of Catholic schools for the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, said that the diocese’s 19 Catholic elementary schools and six Catholic high schools across the state are steadfast in their commitment of providing academic excellence in a Christ-centered environment.
“We are very proud of our schools which are always striving to improve and become better institutions with a constant focus on what is best for our students,” Barnabei said. “Our schools must focus on Catholic identity and academic excellence in our educational programming. We also strive to sustain our schools financially not only for the current students but the generations of West Virginia Catholics to come.”
Catholic schools in West Virginia are older than the state itself. The first Catholic school was established in Martinsburg, W.Va., in 1838. Presently, there are 26 Catholic schools in 12 counties of West Virginia, which includes the diocese’s 19 elementary schools and 6 high schools and Wheeling Jesuit University, the state’s only Catholic institution of higher education. According to enrollment data provided by the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, there are more than 5,000 students in 26 Catholic elementary and secondary schools, and approximately 1,400 undergraduate and graduate students are enrolled at Wheeling Jesuit University.
“Our schools are places where students can “lead, learn, serve, and succeed”. Students have many educational and extracurricular opportunities in our Catholic schools. These opportunities extend beyond our school day and our school buildings,” Barnabei said.
Many Catholic school students participate in numerous activities, ranging from drama productions, quiz bowls, debates, trips abroad, musical ensembles as well as numerous academic competitions, including math, science, history, writing and foreign language. Students and teachers utilize the latest technology and many schools are implementing mobile technologies like iPads and Chromebooks into their classrooms. Many schools incorporate STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) projects or even labs for the students to participate in dynamic activities incorporating science, technology, engineering and math. Three schools in the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston have been nationally recognized as Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence. Nearly all 19 Catholic elementary schools provide preschool programs and many provide before- and after-school care. Financial assistance is available at both the local and diocesan level. More than $900,000 in tuition assistance will be distributed to families in need from the Diocesan Tuition Assistance Program during the 2017-2018 school year.
Students in Catholic schools reach out to those in need within and beyond their communities in numerous ways. In addition to raising funds to assist local agencies in each city, students are involved with global issues; such as sending care packages, cards and letters to service men and women, and participating in social justice issues like working to ban landmines and responding to the need for aid as a result of natural disasters. Faculty, administrators and parents assist students who work with the elderly and disabled, collect food and clothing for the needy, tutor children in need of academic assistance, participate in building and repairing homes and respond to the needs of others, especially in times of emergency. A number of these projects are done in partnership and support of Catholic Charities West Virginia.
Nationally, there are nearly 2 million students enrolled in the 6,429 elementary and secondary Catholic schools in the United States. The National Catholic Educational Association in Washington annually sponsors Catholic Schools Week in January to recognize and promote the vital contribution Catholic schools make to the country. Graduates of Catholic schools can be found in all fields of endeavor, including education, politics, finance, entertainment, military services, technology, sports, et cetera, where they contribute with skill and commitment to their professions and their communities.
Copies of the governor’s proclamation will be distributed to all schools during Catholic Schools Week. To learn more about Catholic schools in the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, call 1-888-434-6237 or visit www.wvcatholicschools.org.