by Jill Ragar Esfeld
TOPEKA — Inside this year’s CEF School of Excellence, cultures don’t clash.
Holy Family School in Topeka, hosts an annual Cinco de Mayo celebration at which you’ll find students of German heritage salsa dancing and serving up tacos.
And at its yearly Octoberfest, you’ll see plenty of Hispanic students doing the polka.
“It’s really a great appreciation for one another’s cultures,” said principal Stacey McBride. “Students don’t recognize it as being opposite from one another; they’re blended into one.”
Holy Family was formed as a result of a consolidation of Our Lady of Guadalupe and Sacred Heart parishes 10 years ago.
McBride is a graduate of Our Lady of Guadalupe and taught at Holy Family for six years before becoming principal two years ago.
She credits the success of the school to its faith formation.
“We talk about being joyfully Catholic,” she said. “And we are very fortunate to have Augustinian religious that are on staff here.
“We do weekly rosaries during October and May, we do Stations of the Cross as a school, and we do retreats for all the grades annually.
“Faith is at the forefront of what we’re doing.”
Second to faith, but intertwined with it, is academics.
Holy Family staff and faculty took time last year to reflect on the school’s curriculum and how to best meet student needs.
“We revamped our curriculum maps,” said McBride. “We revamped how we’re meeting with kids, making sure all kids are progressing, no matter what level they’re on. We saw some great successes in our academic growth last year just from changing things up a little.”
Through the dedication of teachers and the hard work of students, Holy Family continues to show improvement on standardized assessments.
Service to community is also an important part of the school’s mission. All classes participate in at least two service projects that impact the school, local community and beyond.
Students sing at parish funerals, raise money for charities and serve at the local food bank and sandwich ministry.
McBride said CEF scholarships are crucial to the success of Holy Family School — over 60 percent of its families receive financial assistance.
“Because of [CEF],” she said, “our kids are able to feel safe and learn to grow in their faith and their academics.
“The future is to continue working hard.”
“We always say,” she continued, “‘Work hard, pray hard . . . and let God do the rest.’”