St. Stephen Catholic School celebrated National Catholic Schools Week with a variety of activities, including welcoming parents and community members to speak about vocations. Since 1974, National Catholic Schools Week has been the annual celebration of Catholic education in the United States. It begins on the last Sunday in January each year and runs all week. This week allows the community to see the value Catholic education provides to young people and its contributions to the communities and nation.
St. Stephen Catholic School opened its doors in 2001 and now serves more than 275 students enrolled in PreK through eighth grade on a 39-acre property that houses the school, playground, soccer and baseball fields, Family Life Center and the new church building that was completed in 2017.
According to Mary Gurley, assistant principal, Catholic Schools Week was a success.
“Each day we had something special planned to show appreciation for the many groups of people who make our school amazing,” said Gurley. “On Sunday, we celebrated our parish by presenting the priests with gifts prepared by the students. On Monday, we celebrated our community and families. On this day, students were allowed to dress as their favorite movie characters and went home with a special gift they had been working on. On Tuesday, we celebrated our faculty and staff with a luncheon. Everyone was also invited to dress up in Tacky Tuesday clothing on this day.”
Gurley went on to explain that Wednesday was a celebration of our nation and culture where students were invited to dress in colors or clothing that reflected their family’s heritage. Parent volunteers brought cultural dishes to share with the students. Thursday was vocations day, and students were invited to dress up to resemble the vocation that interests them. Friday was a fun-filled game day where students dressed in their spirit gear, and the schoolwide spelling bee also took place.
In addition to all the activities, St. Stephen had more than 20 community members and parents come to speak with the children. Some of the speakers included a firefighter, an FBI agent, a TECO technician, a musician, entrepreneurs, a park ranger, several police officers, an electrical engineer, a school counselor, a priest, a deacon, the general manager of Spirit FM Radio and Mardee Buchman, a representative for Vern Buchanan.
“The visitors were all prepared with hands-on presentations and demonstrations for the students,” said Gurley. “The Dunkin’ Donuts franchise owner had the students decorate (and of course eat) their own donuts. The TECO tech brought a truck and showed the students how to use the lift to repair power lines. The police officers brought a boat and allowed the students to explore. The GM of Spirit FM recorded some of the students talking about how St. Stephen has made a difference in their lives with the intention of sharing some of their responses on the air.”
Gurley cherishes being in an environment where children can grow spiritually as well as educationally. “Helping the students to grow academically is wonderful, but watching them develop into spiritual, conscientious young people who live out their Catholic faith is truly amazing.”
St. Stephen Catholic School is located at 10424 St. Stephen Cir. in Riverview. For more information, call 813-741-9203 or visit www.sscsfl.org.