BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – Being a part of any educational system in a community requires forging relationships that help foster beneficial partnerships throughout the year.
As part of National Catholic Schools Week, students at Holy Trinity Catholic High School trekked across north Lee County Monday morning taking “Thank You” baskets to public and private groups who help build a healthy and vibrant community.
The students took the opportunity to thank groups at the Fort Madison Police Department and Fire Departments, the Lee County Sheriff’s Office, Fort Madison Community Hospital, P.A.W. Animal Shelter, and the Fort Madison Food Pantry.
While presenting at Fort Madison Police Department a group of students stopped to talk about the value they place in a Catholic education.
Nick Fullenkamp, a freshman who transferred back to the Holy Trinity system after leaving for a year to experience 8th grade at Fort Madison High School, said HTC is a better fit for him.
“I think the HTC schools have a really good community there and since it’s such a small school you get to know each other more than big public schools so that’s a big pro for me,” he said.
“It’s a whole bunch of different people and I wasn’t really comfortable with that, and I think it’s worked out very well.”
Kayla Box, also a freshman, said public school wasn’t an option in her family, but she never wanted to go anywhere else.
“I’ve always thought of Holy Trinity as like a little family almost. It’s small, we have small classes, we know everyone, we like everyone. We all get together and have fun,” Box said.
She said integrating church and education works for her and her family because it provides a well-rounded approach to learning inside and outside of religion.
“We’re always with the church because we are a Catholic School and the church is awesome,” she said.
“I go every Sunday. We do things with the church and the school and we’re compatible with each other. I like that family we have,” Box said.
Brooke Mueller said the integration of the church is more of a choice for her, but also a commitment.
“I feel like you can choose, but I feel obligated because they do so much for us as a whole school and individually.”
Mueller, who’s plays multiple sports at HTC, said the opportunities are there but the close knit group makes the competition for playing time fun.
Laura Mehmert is another freshman who’s been in the Holy Trinity System since she started school.
“I feel like its easier to become part of this family. When you play sports here it’s a smaller group and you can get to meet upper classman and get to know them, and get close to them,” she said.
“You get to know more people in your school and that’s so much nicer.
Nicole Pothitakis, a senior who isn’t Catholic but practices Christianity said even if your not Catholic you are still able to discuss God and faith.
“Everybody accepts me. We go to mass and I do get to worship God in those areas and learn more about God and religion, but it’s just a different side of things, which allows me to broaden my view,” Pothitakis said.
She said neither staff nor students have ever made her feel uncomfortable with the religious teachings, and said tolerance is part of the day-do-day discussions and teachings.
“Miss Taylor and other religion teachers have been really nice about incorporating me and other non-Catholics into the mix and making us feel comfortable.”
HTC High School principal Jason Woodley said this week is a chance for students to not only thank the community for its support, but also share their faith and experiences.
Woodley is in his first full year at Holy Trinity after transferring in from Central Lee. Woodley doesn’t practice Catholicism either, but said the administration and the Diocese make the integration easy and tolerant.
“The way I look at Catholic Schools Week is that it’s giving our students the opportunity to share their faith with other community members and their friends, not only here inside the walls but outside as well,” he said.
“This is an opportunity where we can also come together and really become one. So many times we come to events and then have private separate lives outside, but here we can integrate both.
“This week, gives us the chance to go and not only thank our community, but also welcome them into our schools and share that faith, is kind of how I look at it.”
National Catholic Schools Week wraps up on Friday with a fun, dress down day. High School students will be attending a movie and elementary will go bowling.