This article is part of a series, published since 2010, in which laypeople describe how Franciscan values have affected their lives. The previous HNP Today issue featured a St. Bonaventure University graduate who created a scholarship in honor of a friar. Below, two eighth graders at The Franciscan School in Raleigh, North Carolina, describe the impact that their education and the Franciscan spirit have had on them. The students presented their ideas at a Mass at St. Francis of Assisi Church during Catholic Schools Week, held this year from Jan. 26 to Feb. 1. They reflected on what reaching this phase of their lives — the farewell to familiar surroundings and the anticipation of new schools — means to them.
My Catholic education started when I was two years old in our preschool. I have spent my whole life at St. Francis of Assisi Parish. I am proud to say that I have grown up in a Catholic and Franciscan environment.
I remember when I was a kindergartener at The Franciscan School, I would look at the eighth-graders and wish to be in their spot because they seemed to be having the time of their life. Now, here I am, an eighth-grader at TFS who is graduating in just a few months. Time really flies, and I have treasured every moment greatly.
During my time at TFS, I have been shaped into the person I am today. By taking advantage of the many opportunities our school offers, I accomplished many things that I never thought about doing when I started. They gave me the chance to improve my current qualities as a person and obtain new ones. Year after year, The Franciscan School helped me discover more about myself, to set goals and reach them, and be of service to our community.
TFS is not just a school; it is a community where people matter. Our voices are heard, our prayers valued, and our presence important. The people at TFS are a highlight of this journey that will forever remain with me wherever I go.
From the moment I step inside the school, I see God everywhere I look. I see God in the middle of our community every day during morning prayer. I see God in our teachers, who work so hard to prepare us for the future, who are always willing to help us when we need it, who motivate us to give our absolute best every time, and show their deep support for us both inside and outside the classroom. I see God in the friends I have made at TFS, who keep me fueled throughout the day, and resemble Jesus Christ in their actions, love, and happiness. I look forward to coming to school every day to see them and have been blessed with wonderful friendships that I know will last beyond my time here.
May 20 is the day the eighth graders will graduate from TFS. We will go on our separate paths and on to different schools. This is when we take everything that TFS taught us and show it to the world. This is when we show who we have become.
When I leave TFS, I will take the knowledge, the tools, faith and good that I have learned, and use them to make an impact and pass it on. As the years pass, I will look back at TFS as my home — as a place where God resides and that brought so much happiness to my childhood. I thank God for blessing me with being a part of The Franciscan School and look forward to carrying out God’s mission as a member of our Catholic and Franciscan community.
On my first day at TFS in first grade, I was not a happy camper. Let’s just say, I did not want to leave my parents and I was not thrilled about a new school. Luckily my teacher, Mrs. Burdett, saw me trying to flee the classroom and stopped me. She brought me a book about a boy starting a new school. She eased my worries, and my mom’s,too! Little did I know that I would grow to love and cherish The Franciscan School and that it would help shape me in so many ways.
I feel very fortunate to attend a school that celebrates our faith and I am deeply proud of our Franciscan spirit. I loved what Fr. Steve Kluge, OFM, said in his homily recently, that the gift of Francis of Assisi is in our DNA. We are taught at TFS that we all have gifts and that it is our job to find those gifts and use them for the betterment of others. I have tried to do just that.
In sixth grade, I joined the Student Council. From that moment on, I knew that one day I wanted to lead the Student Council and make an impact on my school. I achieved that goal and it is a great honor. Every day, I am fortunate to help with Morning Prayer and my goal is to bring excitement about the day ahead. I hope that enthusiasm will inspire students to do more, give more, and spread positivity. Gathering to pray, read scriptures and celebrate birthdays with Fr. Jim Sabak, OFM, cheering loudly bonds us as a community and gives us a purpose.
That sense of purpose and community is what allows us to grow strong academically. I feel like my teachers really see me; they know my goals and want to help me succeed. We are pushed at TFS to be strong students that advocate for ourselves, but our teachers also recognize that we are more than just students. Sometimes it all feels hard, navigating the stress of homework, getting good grades, extracurriculars, friendships, and family obligations, and it is nice to know that my teachers understand that and care about who I am as a whole person and not just a student.
TFS teachers are very creative in how they make learning fun. In the 5th grade, we played a year-long Game of Life where we had to make real-life decisions. We wrote resumes in order to apply for jobs, managed a checkbook to pay rent, insurance, taxes, and other bills. I remember the first thing that I did with my money was to buy a sports car. My parents were mortified when I told them and thankful for the early life lesson, I am sure.
I have been busy preparing my high school applications and that has allowed me to reflect on how prepared I feel for what lies ahead. Middle school has been rigorous and challenging, and I know that I am lucky to leave TFS having conquered Mrs. Moser’s 8th-grade science class, advanced math courses, eight years of Spanish and electives like STEM, Forensics, Academic Decathlon, Study Skills, and Creative Writing.
There is something so unique and special about our St. Francis community. I feel it at Mass, and I know you all do, too. It is a remarkable privilege to have that same feeling at school as well.
It makes me excited yet, sad to know I will be somewhere else next year, But I will carry the Franciscan spirit with me, putting others before myself, serve others, ones around the world and the ones sitting next to me, spread kindness, act with integrity, work hard and be accountable. I am incredibly grateful for my Catholic education; it has been such a gift.
Editor’s note: Past issues of the HNP Today newsletter have included essays by other members of Raleigh’s St. Francis of Assisi Parish. These contributors included Trevor Thompson and Ben and Gladys Whitehouse.
- “Communities Celebrate Catholic Schools Week” – Feb. 21, 2019, HNP Today
- “Raleigh’s Resettlement Ministry Sponsors Families from North Africa” — April 24, 2019, HNP Today
- “Province Commemorates Catholic Schools Week” – Feb. 7, 2018, HNP Today