Southaven Sacred Heart School recognized for service learning program

By Maureen Smith
JACKSON – Southaven Sacred Heart School brought some national recognition home from this year’s National Catholic Education Association (NCEA) convention held in St. Louis April 18-20. Sacred Heart School was one of three finalists in Innovations in Catholic Education (ICE) award presented by the magazine Today’s Catholic Teacher.
The school was nominated for its Catholic identity program. It’s a two-pronged program. “Our theme for this year was ‘mercy knows no bounds,’” explained Bridget Martin, principal. Each month, the school highlighted two things, the diversity within its own community and contributions the students can make on their own.

WALLS – Elian Munoz from Sacred Heart School works at the Sacred Heart Southern Missions food Pantry in November as part of service learning. The school was one of three recognized nationally for innovative Catholic identity programs. (Photo by Laura Grisham)

“Our 325 students represent 17 nationalities,” said Martin. Each month families from these nations get space in the school lobby to put up a display about their culture and students learn more about their neighbors. This month, Guatemala takes center stage. The second part of the identity program highlights community involvement.
The priests of Sacred Heart sponsor 13 different social service ministries in northeast Mississippi. Students learn about each one in a way appropriate to their age group. “Each month a representative from a different ministry comes to speak to them. The sixth, seventh and eighth graders will even go to the ministries to do service projects,” said Martin. At the end of the month the students have ‘denim days’ on which they can pay to wear denim and the money goes to the ministry of the month. “So we have been learning about and praying for and supporting the ministry all month,” said Martin.
“We hope that when they grow up, if they find they are in need, they will know where to go for help. We also hope that when they grow up, if they have a gift or a talent they will volunteer or donate to help their communities,” said Martin. She added that many students who go on to Catholic high schools in Memphis return to fulfill their service hours at Sacred Heart or one of the social service organizations.
This is not the only innovative program the school has offered. This year, Sacred Heart switched its fund-raiser from golf to running, but with a twist. The school offered a fun run during the school day. Different classes ran during different times of the day and were joined by parents and other community members. “The police came out at one point and ran with the kids and they loved that,” said Martin. The activities included inflatable bounce houses.
Martin promised if they topped $20,000 she would sleep on the school roof. On Tuesday, May 2, the effort had gathered $31,000 and Martin was headed up with a member of her maintenance staff to find a safe spot to ‘camp.’ “The last time I promised to do this my school had a flat roof,” she joked. The money will go toward new library furniture.