St. Philip High School English teacher Jenny Niesen believes in self-directed learning, which is why she assigns Innovation Projects. The project can be anything, but it must root from the student’s passion.

Emily Pearl, a senior in Mrs. Niesen’s AP Language class, had three main passions: soccer, faith, and food.

She chose faith.

“I wanted to do something to help others and I couldn’t think of a project that would help others in those other areas,” Emily said with a laugh. “Faith is a really an aspect of growing up.”

Like most seniors, the future was on Emily’s mind. She knew where she was going to college, had an idea what she wanted to do after college, but the rest was…what?

She found peace in God’s plan.

“Once you realize life is chaotic, you realize God is there and it’s in his hands,” Emily said.

Trusting God’s plan isn’t easy, even with a Catholic education.

“Our theology classes are really important, but they are more about the doctrine of the Catholic faith and not really how to build a lasting relationship that you can really fall back on with Christ,” Emily said.

Emily decided to create a Faith Day for students with speakers, contemporary music, and reflection. The BCACS staff liked her idea. In fact, they wanted Faith Day incorporated into Catholic Schools Week – two months earlier than Emily anticipated.

This would require innovation.

Using local resources, Emily lined up Fr. Christopher Ankley, Tri-Parish Youth Director Andrea Perry, Sara Pekar, who interns at St. Joseph Parish, and Bob Johnson, who completed a service trip to Haiti, as speakers. Ms. Pekar would lead the singing and Fr. Chris would celebrate Mass.

[l. to r.] Sara Pekar, Andrea Perry, Emily Pearl, Fr. Chris Ankley, Bob Johnson

“I’ve never seen a student totally organize an event on their own and pull it off at this level,” Kyra Rabbitt, AP History teacher, said. “I’m really proud of her.”

Faith Day took place on Wednesday of Catholic Schools Week. The theme was “Where Feet May Fail: Trusting in God’s Plan”.

Emily cited Fr. Chris’ path from practicing veterinarian to parish priest as the stories she hoped to capture.

“It is an interesting perspective to hear how God’s plan for him was a little bit skewed,” Emily said. “It wasn’t an immediate thing. I think it is really important for us to hear those stories.”

Mrs. Niesen agreed, describing Ms. Pekar’s presentation as “huge” because she questioned God’s plan.

Students listening to Ms. Pekar’s presentation.

“For students this age, it’s key, because which one of them isn’t questioning their faith all the time?” Mrs. Niesen said.

Hopefully, Faith Day helped with those questions.

“I had a few people come up to me and say, ‘Thank you. This day was really cool’,” Emily said.

Very cool indeed.

Don't worry. The math (and science) still adds up!
Teacher Feature: Molly Williamson
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