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Why Catholic schools? Print E-mail
Written by Mary Ellen Pellegrini, Special to the Exponent   
Friday, 17 January 2014 13:38

Six weeks into their son Nate’s entry into second grade, Jean and Steve Giunto, transferred him from public school to Kent St. Patrick School.




Last spring Nate graduated from St. Patrick. Now a freshman at Kent Roosevelt High School, he is regarded as a disciplined, respectful, honor student. The Giuntos, members of Streetsboro St. Joan of Arc Parish, attribute their son’s success to the foundation he received at St. Pat’s.


“My kids have enjoyed the school and I feel very confident we made the right decision when Nate was in second grade,” said Jean Giunto. The couple’s two younger children are also students at the school. Brandon, a seventh grader, came to St. Patrick in second grade and Aly, a sixth grader, entered the school in first grade.


While the Giuntos’ initial motivation for choosing St. Patrick was to enhance Nate’s educational experience, having their Catholic faith reinforced on a daily basis soon became an equal priority.


“The faith-based aspect [of Catholic education] wasn’t a surprise but I guess I didn’t realize how important that was in our life and how much that meant to me to see that instilled in my kids,” said Jean Giunto.


The smaller class sizes, caring staff, emphasis on service, and validation of faith are several of the reasons, the Giunto family values Catholic education.


“I do believe our kids can be good kids regardless of where they go to school. However, the expectations of being good kids and being respectful carries over from [Catholic] school to their whole routine at home and everywhere,” Jean Giunto said.


Like the Giuntos, Sandi and Ed Taylor, members of Ashtabula Our Lady of Peace Parish, originally choose St. John Catholic School in Ashtabula for academics. When the couple’s daughter, Faith, a 2012 high school graduate of St John School, was nearing school age, the Taylors toured area schools and found St. John’s to be the best fit for their two children.


Ed Taylor, a member of St. John’s school board, said, “We interviewed various schools and it was a no-brainer that St. John’s was the safest place to send our kids.” The family values the tight-knit school community, low student-teacher ratio and the engagement of other parents in their own children’s well being. The school’s clean, orderly atmosphere was also a draw for Sandi Taylor.


Throughout their children’s years at St. John School, the academic foundation, critical thinking skills and moral compass have reinforced the Taylors’ gratitude for Catholic education.


“In the beginning, the faith-based factor wasn’t one of the reasons for choosing St. John’s but it certainly has become a big part of it for us,” said Sandi Taylor.


Tina and Richard Kali are also grateful for the spiritual basis Catholic education provides their three children. Katherine, a seventh-grader; Audrey, a fifth-grader; and Andrew, a second grader, have attended Holy Family School in Poland, now a part of Lumen Christi Schools, since preschool.


“I like the warm, inviting atmosphere, the more personal touch, the fact that the principal and the staff know the names of every child in the school,” said Tina Kali.


The opportunity for their children to attend school Masses and expound upon their Catholic religion is important to the couple.


 “The children are very aware of the love of Jesus,” said Tina Kali.


After a recent student Mass, Andrew asked to download “On Eagle’s Wings,” which had been sung in the church that day. “That was extremely touching. That tells me the religious portion of their education is affecting them in a positive, loving way,” Tina said. The Kali family are parishioners at both Holy Family and Hubbard St. Patrick parishes.


The Giuntos said talking about faith and praying in school on a daily basis inspired Nate’s current involvement in St. Joan of Arc Parish’s youth group as well as two mission trips he and Steve completed. “Learning to serve other people is part of who they are and that’s just a continuation of the school,” said Jean Giunto.


In addition, all three families said the close bonds between the students and parents are also a benefit.


“Our closest friends are parents whose children go to St. Pat’s. Since Nate went to the high school, he’s meeting new kids but his closest friends are still the St. Pat’s kids,” Jean said.


Ironically, nurturing friendship proved both a learning experience and a source of comfort for the Taylor family. At the start of fourth grade, four of Zach’s friends didn’t return to St. John’s. That year was difficult for Zach and in fifth grade, his parents gave him the option of transferring to be with his buddies.


“That choice of going to be with a couple of friends over being in the environment of St. John’s was not what Zach expected,” said Sandi Taylor. After one year away, Zach returned “where he belonged.”


During Zach’s fifth grade year, Sandi was diagnosed with breast cancer.


“If he had been at St. John’s that year, I believe Zach would have gotten more support because it was more of a family,” said Sandi.


The support from other families as his wife underwent surgeries and treatment bolstered Faith’s spirits and “was very valuable,” said Ed Taylor. “Feeling that love helped Zach, when he returned for sixth grade, as well,” Sandi said.


The Giuntos experienced similar support when a ruptured spleen hospitalized their son, Brandon. Medical restrictions limited Brandon’s activity level for three months.


 “It was very scary to send him back to school but to see how everyone cared for him and kept him safe was reassuring,” said Jean. Such experiences will stay with her children well into adulthood, she noted.


The couples interviewed said they believe the benefits of Catholic education outweigh the financial sacrifice. “We always felt like we have one chance at our kids’ education and we wanted to make sure we did it right. I didn’t ever want to say ‘I wish I would have,’” Jean Giunto said.


Sandi Taylor is grateful for the individual attention that enables staff to identify and address students’ problems in their early stages.


“I always felt the teachers, administrators and guidance counselors were looking out for the best interest of the kids in the school,” she continued.


The Kalis believe the caring, compassionate nature of Catholic education will remain with their children after graduation.


“I think they’re always going to be closer to God, and I think they’re going to ‘pay it forward’ in the sense they’re always going to think of others and do for others,” Tina said.


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