“Ask what God wants from you and be brave,” Pope Francis said recently to a group of young Catholic students. The Diocese of Orlando schools have taken these words to heart as educators work toward building students academically through their minds, bodies and souls.
Just like their public school counterparts, the Diocese of Orlando schools teach standards-based curriculum as set by the state of Florida. All teachers are certified and each school is accredited through a national accreditation association.
“The most important thing that I tell the teachers and principals is that we are first and foremost a Catholic School,” Superintendent Henry Fortier says. “From that, excellence comes in every area because we’re obligated through our faith to do everything possible to bring to fullness their humanity, as God created them with all their potential.”
Fortier says that students at the diocese schools learn out of the Catholic tradition, but they don’t need to be Catholic to attend. He also notes the students are performing 20 to 25 percent higher than the national average, an accomplishment that he credits to his teachers’ commitment of service to their students.
“It’s a game changer because they’re motivated beyond just getting someone a good job and making them a productive citizen,” Fortier says. “Now you’re talking about their salvation, their soul – a moral faith obligation almost.”
Similarly to how teachers form students through academics and engaging them in positive social situations, athletic coaches and other extracurricular team leaders instruct them on being part of a team. Ultimately, this builds them into better people, better citizens and better contributors to humanity.
“We teach in our programs that it’s less about winning first place and more about good sportsmanship,” Fortier says. “It’s important for them to learn that the journey to reaching their goal, no matter the activity, is really the learning process to what they’re trying to achieve.”
In an effort to help children grow even further, diocese schools teach religion classes so they understand the why behind the education. They also create opportunities for service in their own communities and through mission trips to a sister diocese in the Dominican Republic as well as opportunities for students to grow in their faith such as retreats and Bible studies.
Amanda Livermore, the director of mission effectiveness for Bishop Moore High School, says reaching students where they’re at to develop their own faith is the soul purpose of the schools. While the students are achieving incredible things academically, the Diocese of Orlando staff shows them they can help improve the world around them through those achievements.
“For us as Catholic schools, each of us is called to something unique and particular based on our gifts and who we were created to be,” Livermore explains. “We then are able to help the students recognize that individual call for them and give them the tools they need to answer it boldly and courageously.”
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50 E. Robinson Street
Orlando, FL 32801