St. Philip history teacher Kyra Rabbit gave her students an assignment. There was no typing involved, no Chromebooks, no final draft due date – just a pencil, a sheet of loose-leaf paper, and one class period.
They were to write about how their Catholic education’s focus on faith, knowledge, and service has impacted their lives. The topic came from a Catholic School Pride contest hosted by the Diocese of Kalamazoo Office of Schools.
“I just wanted everyone to participate and talk about what they liked about the schools,” Mrs. Kyra Rabbitt said. “They did a good job.”
Before collecting the papers, Mrs. Rabbitt gave students the option to submit their essays in the contest. Over thirty of them agreed.
A few weeks later, St. Philip received the good news. Four of the top five finishers, including first place, came from St. Philip Catholic Central High School.
“We were judging based on the originality of their answers and the ones from Battle Creek-St. Philip’s were really thoughtful,” Diocese of Kalamazoo enrollment and retention specialist Nina Laney said, said.
Sophomore Marcel Williams earned first place and $100. Junior Faith Scriber took third place, earning $50, and junior Diego Campos and sophomore Ben Rutherford took fourth and fifth place respectively, each receiving $25.
“Marcel’s essay was really good,” Ms. Laney said. “It was more about turning around his life rather than the generic answers.”
Excerpts of the winning essays will be featured on a diocesan school website, which will formally launch later this year at http://catholicschools.diokzoo.org/. Ms. Laney wanted a strong voice from the diocesan students, teachers, and parents, which is part of the reason the Office of Schools hosted the contest.
“Battle Creek-St. Philip’s students told a personal story – the difference in their education being here instead of what it would have been somewhere else,” Ms. Laney said. “That’s what we appreciated about the ones that won.”
Mary Rabbitt, St. Philip Catholic Central High School administrative assistant, also appreciated the essays, keeping a copy by her desk.
“There are days you get frustrated, then you read these essays and they make you feel good,” Mrs. Rabbitt said.
Want to share that good feeling? Read on…
Marcel Williams, sophomore – First Place
In my four years in a Catholic school, I’ve developed into a much better person. I started off in a public school in Battle Creek and, to be honest, I wasn’t a good kid. I was surrounded by people who led me to be a bad kid. After leaving the public school, I went to Lakeview Middle School. I hated it so much. Everyone was mean. Then, the summer of sixth grade, my neighbor, [St. Joseph Middle School teacher] Don Shafer, asked me to join his football team. I’ve always been good at sports, and I decided to play for the team. It was a St. Joseph Catholic Middle School team and right away I felt like I had made best friends. My 7th-grade year, I transferred to St. Joseph and, honestly, I was a little nervous. But with the help my teachers provided and the support of my friends, I began to love it. My mom decided it would be best for me to go there because she knew I’d do great. I’d never talked about God until I went to St. Joseph. I was not baptized until the 8th grade. Just after one year at St. Joseph, my belief in God and feeling more comfortable talking and praying to Him became very easy. Our 8th-grade Confirmation is probably my favorite memory of middle school. On the day of our Confirmation, I also received my First Communion. I think it’s very special because I received my First Communion from Bishop Paul Bradley. I still remember, after Confirmation, Bishop Bradley and Fr. John Fleckenstein coming up to me and congratulating me. Now I continue to live the Faith. Almost every Sunday I go to Mass, and I also help with Sunday suppers at St. Philip Church. Going to St. Joseph Catholic Middle School and St. Philip Catholic Central High School was the best thing that ever happened to me because not only do I have friends, I have a family of friends and teachers.
Faith Scriber, junior – third place
I used to go through the motions of the Catholic faith. My family and I would pray together and go to Mass every weekend, but my heart wasn’t into it. I used to feel rather depressed and empty. For one reason or another, I wasn’t comfortable praying. One day, during our daily family rosary, I felt very compelled to pray with my family. I sat down with them and started to pray. I could tell that the devil wasn’t happy because something happened to me, I’m not sure what, but I was scared out of my wits. After that, I started to pray with words and as well as my heart. I noticed that once I truly started to pray and pay attention in Mass, the void in my heart started to fill. I find so much more joy in the small things in my life. I found out that all I needed was a strong relationship with the Father. My life and future seem so much brighter. I am even discerning the religious life. When my life hits a rough patch, I no longer despair, I pray and meditate on the Holy Family. I don’t know how I lived my life away from God.
Diego Campos, junior – fourth place
Where can I begin? I’ve been in the Catholic school system every time I’ve been in the United States. I started learning about my Faith all the way back in preschool before our first move to Mexico. It’s funny to think how even back in preschool I was able to gather a strong basis for my Faith, something that would grow over the next five years in Mexico. We moved back to the United States for my fifth-grade year, and my parents decided to place me back in St. Joseph Elementary School, hoping it could impact my faith, knowledge, and service in life. And the gamble paid off. For the next two years, I once again saw myself growing not only in my knowledge but in my faith. And just as I had acquired a strong base for my faith, the school also provided a strong base for service. In my 7th grade year, we moved back to Mexico, where I began going on annual mission trips. For the next three years in Mexico, I kept growing, and when we came back to Michigan, I was once again enrolled in the Battle Creek Area Catholic Schools. I began attending St. Philip Catholic Central High School. This last year and a half have been excellent. I have kept growing in my daily Theology classes, and my knowledge has kept growing. In terms of service, I have still maintained my going to Mexico for the mission trips, something encouraged by my school. I’m not sure if I would have that opportunity at any other school. The Catholic schools system will forever have a great effect on my life and will be something to stay with me throughout my life. Most importantly, I have learned not only to experience my faith but to live it.
Ben Rutherford, sophomore – fifth place
Battle Creek Area Catholic Schools has been my home since Transitional Kindergarten. I have logged almost as many hours in these classrooms, churches, and gyms as I have in my own house, but I don’t mind. Normally, you hear kids complain about school, but I don’t mind it. I truly think it’s the Catholic school difference. The Faith is strong, the Spirit is high, and the Love is deep. Every day I enter this school knowing I’ll leave more empowered and closer to God. The community is all people who care, people who want to do good. I know I’ll always have an opportunity to do great things for others. Our dedication to service, faith, and academic excellence is unmatched. Every week we get the privilege of Mass. Every day we get the opportunity for Theology class. That’s something you’ll never be able to find at a public school. It’s one of the many things that sets us apart from other schools. Our dedicated teachers are committed to making us know something we didn’t before we came in the room. That is a truly amazing feeling. And the dedication to helping and serving from every person involved is truly mesmerizing. It’s amazing knowing when I walk into my school every person there wants to help and care for others just as much as I do. This is how the faith, knowledge, and service-focus in my Catholic school has changed my life.