Tanya Murray, principal of Holy Name School in Omaha, speaks with second-graders Ayden O’Neal, left, and Kira Brown Nov. 4 at the school. Holy Name is one of many schools around the archdiocese that have received a big boost from the archdiocese’s $50 million Ignite the Faith Capital Campaign. MIKE MAY/STAFF

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IGNITE THE FAITH: Technology, building improvements help students thrive

Ignite the Faith key to CUES Schools’ investment in education

New technology is helping Miles Williams, an eight-grader at Holy Name School, understand his math lessons in a new way.

Now, with his own Chromebook computer, he uses the ALEKS web-based learning system to supplement in-class lessons and monitor his own progress.

That’s just one of the improvements students at the Omaha school are enjoying thanks to funds from the Archdiocese of Omaha’s Ignite the Faith Capital Campaign.

Without those funds, the school would have been hard pressed to make any investments in educational resources, given the deteriorating condition of its nearly 100-year-old school building.

But thanks to Ignite the Faith, Holy Name students have a new roof over their heads, a new boiler and new carpeting in classrooms, and the school has the financial flexibility to pursue educational excellence.

“We got money for the school for a lot of things,” Williams said, “but the Chromebooks and technology are my favorite because they make learning easier.”

“Because of Ignite the Faith, we were able to purchase the items so that they (students) could have one-to-one technology in every classroom,” said Principal Tanya Murray.

All students in kindergarten through third grade now have their own iPads, and students in fourth through eighth have their own Chromebooks for use at school, she said.

FINANCIAL HIT

Without Ignite the Faith funds, the school would have needed to make infrastructure repairs through the school’s operating budget, which might have cost $65,000 last year alone, Murray said.

“It could have been like losing two teachers and increasing class sizes. It could have been missing out on some of the professional development and buying some of the materials, like our new Journeys curriculum.

“It could have played out in a number of ways,” she said, “but ultimately, it would have hurt the kids.”

Instead, Holy Name was able to invest in Journeys, a K-6 English language arts program that helps students develop reading, speaking, listening and writing skills, along with Wilson Phonics, a multi-sensory program for K-3 students.

“It’s so awesome to see the growth as compared to last year with just that little extra support,” Murray said. Wilson Phonics “supplements the Journeys curriculum as an extra resource that we would not have been able to have if we had to focus on some of those other (infrastructure) areas.”

And Holy Name was also able to obtain an Excellence Grant through Ignite the Faith, Murray said.

The school successfully applied for a $15,000 grant to purchase new furniture and hands-on activities for its early childhood program.

BROAD IMPACT

Ignite the Faith funds have made that kind of impact in parishes and schools all around the archdiocese.

Launched in 2012 with a goal of $40 million, the campaign exceeded that target with more than $53 million pledged and more than $50 million received.

The generosity shown by Catholics throughout the archdiocese is yielding tremendous fruit.

For example, a guided reading program is improving reading skills for students at St. Mary School in Wayne; a formation program is helping teachers at St. Bernadette School in Bellevue grow spiritually and more effectively impart the faith to their students; young people at St. Ludger Parish in Creighton are deepening their faith through small, faith-sharing groups; and seminarians are being helped along in their discernment through the archdiocese’s seminarian fund – all supported, in one form or another, through the Ignite the Faith campaign.

A LIFELINE

Ignite the Faith funds are a lifeline for inner-city schools like Holy Name, along with its membership in the CUES School System.

CUES, formerly Christian Urban Education Services, provides funding for Holy Name, Sacred Heart and All Saints Schools to enable low-income students to benefit from a Catholic education.

Founded by Redemptorist priests and Servants of Mary sisters in 1918, Holy Name has faced challenges to its survival in recent decades due to demographic changes and declining incomes in northeast Omaha.

Holy Name’s high school closed in 1989, and the grade school was also in danger of closing 20 years later.

Through it all, Holy Name has continued to be an anchor in the community, serving a diverse student body, Murray said. Of the 284 students, 40% are African American, 17% are Hispanic, 16% are from African countries, and the rest ar Asian, Caucasian or multi-racial.

“Community and family.” That’s how Murray describes Holy Name School.

“It’s not a typical school setting … because the relationships are so tight here, and have been so strong for many years,” she said. “Everyone just becomes part of a great big family, and it’s evident in everything we do.”

 

For more coverage on Ignite the faith, see our E-Edition here.