When my husband and I were growing up, Catholic school was a part of each of our lives. We each knew it was important and special because after all, why else would our parents be so insistent on investing in it?
And yet, our Catholic education felt natural. It was a part of our families’ identities, our identities, and the way we viewed the world. It was, in a lot of ways, an extension of our family lives. It was a place where we were as cared for and welcome as in our own homes.
Simply put, there was an atmosphere at our schools where we really felt like we could flourish and learn — spiritually, academically, and emotionally.
When we were making decisions about where to send our own children, we toyed with several options. At one point, we considered charter schools. They had a good reputation, and would cost less than Catholic schools in our area.
But my husband and I kept coming back to the same points. That the welcoming environment we knew from Catholic school was beyond a numeric value. Choosing an AOPS school would be an assurance to us that our children would be in a place where they could meet their potential, free of the kind of worry and judgment they might face somewhere else.
From the moment we made that decision, we knew it was the right one.
I remember my daughter Emily, coming back from taking a placement test at John W. Hallahan High School for Girls. It was such a preliminary step, but she was immediately excited.
“Mom, I feel like I’m home here,” she told me. “I love it.”
In fact, she had begged us to bring money with us the next time we were at the school. She was already ready to stock up on Hallahan sweatshirts and other gear!
Once she was actually in the school, taking classes, she only became more assured. The school is full of people who care about her… about all the children… from the principal and sisters to the teachers and the cafeteria staff. They are here for these girls, and would never hesitate to hear out their questions, explain matters of faith, or simply welcome them every day with a bright smile.
At this school, there’s just a sense of community, like everyone is on the same team. My children know they can talk openly and honestly to anyone about their questions or worries. While they are expected to do their best, missteps are responded to with encouragement and support. My kids, and all the girls here, know their teachers have their backs. Even when the teachers are buried under stacks of papers, they’re always willing to put in extra time with a student in need.
As clear-cut of a choice as these tidbits make things seem in retrospect, my husband and I couldn’t have done it without our daughters’ input. And we would advise any parents in our position to get their children as involved as possible in making a school selection. Ultimately, our kids all knew they had found the right educational atmosphere for them when they entered the halls of their schools. It took a lot of work on our part, but we are happy to give them a second home with AOPS.
Holly lives with her husband Tim and their four daughters in the Philadelphia area. Their two eldest daughters attend John W. Hallahan High School for Girls; their two youngest daughters attend Immaculate Heart of Mary School.