Linda Oppelt

SMHS curriculum seeks to prepare students for college and life

By Robyn Cross

(Editor’s note: This is the second in a three-part series on the three pillars of St. Mary’s High School:  Faith, Knowledge, Community.)

In the previous article on the St. Mary’s High School “Faith” pillar, we read St. Bonaventure’s powerful words, “If you learn everything except Christ, you learn nothing. If you learn nothing except Christ, you learn everything.”

Having firmly established that faith in, and a focus on, Jesus Christ is the critical element that separates St. Mary’s from the traditional public schools and public charter schools, it is worth taking a deeper dive into the other “everything,” that which separates St. Mary’s academically from other high school offerings in Colorado Springs.

Education at St. Mary’s is fundamentally a personal encounter. That personal encounter takes place primarily in the classroom between an engaged student and an enthusiastic teacher. Even more than enthusiasm, St. Mary’s teachers bring subject matter expertise, a heart of faith, and joy into the learning environment.

The structure that those teachers tie into is an updated curriculum that focuses on maintaining St. Mary’s 138 years of academic excellence while at the same time ensuring students are, as the mission statements concludes, “well prepared for college and life.”

The phrase “well prepared for college” often captures the attention of students and parents.

However, leading students to a place where they contemplate the big questions of life; such as “Who am I?” and “Why am I here?” is just as important of a task within the St. Mary’s educational philosophy.

That continuously updated curriculum is moving towards an integrated humanities approach with deep collaboration among and between the Theology, English and Social Studies departments that addresses those “big questions” in a manner that prepares students for life. This too fits within the long-stated mission of the school to “educate students in the Catholic tradition to be responsible, moral, critical thinkers and leaders.”

“Responsible, moral and critical” requires that students not just learn academic content, but that they are able to synthesize and apply knowledge, integrated with their faith, to the world in which they live. That world is often messy and confusing, and St. Mary’s provides an environment where students are mentally, emotionally and spiritually safe to form their faith, intellect and character.

That rigorous and holistically integrated core curriculum is broadened and enhanced by adding electives as diverse as an outstanding “Project Lead The Way” engineering program and a set of Fine Arts offerings that includes numerous visual arts disciplines, music and theater.

Tying together the many human beings on this educational journey is a “house system.” Students from across all grade levels are assigned to one of four houses. The system is designed to give students a school “family” to encourage their comfortable and confident integration into the larger school community. The houses carry the names of legendary members of the St. Mary’s family and encompass the entire  history of the school.

House activities, service projects, and friendly competition among the houses remind students and faculty that a faithful and rigorous education experience can also be fun!

To learn more about the joyful “Faith, Knowledge, Community” experience offered by St. Mary’s High School, read about the school’s Core Beliefs at https://www.smpirates.org/page/core-beliefs.

Families with school-age children who are looking for something uniquely better than the standard education offerings in the world today, should contact the St. Mary’s Director of Enrollment, Raquel Krasovec, at admissions@smhscs.org or 719-635-7540.

(Robyn Cross is principal of St. Mary’s High School)

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