Students from Catholic schools throughout New Jersey were encouraged to find their voice during Catholic Schools Week kickoff activities at the State House in Trenton on Jan. 30.
The day started with a tour for students who arrived early. “This is your building. These people work for you,“ said tour guide Linda Rosso.
Rosso reminded students that change does not occur if people do not let their representatives know what is on their minds. She encouraged them with stories about young people who have influenced change, like Brick Township fourth graders who assembled outside the State House dressed in blue, promoting their idea for what is now the state fruit — the blueberry. And the second graders who were responsible for the adoption of the honey bee as the official state insect.
“Your voices are important now and when you become voters,” said Mary Boyle, superintendent of schools for the Diocese of Camden. ”Be vocal about the fact that our [school] parents and benefactors save New Jersey taxpayers more than $1.3 billion a year.”
On behalf of all New Jersey Catholic schools, Boyle accepted a proclamation signed by Gov. Chris Christie declaring the week of Jan. 29 through Feb. 4, 2017 as Catholic Schools Week in New Jersey. The document acknowledges the millions of New Jersey residents who have been educated in Catholic schools and praises the schools for moral values and a commitment to service.
Addressing an audience of students, parents and grandparents, school administrators and state officials, Boyle thanked the Governor for the proclamation and Sen. Steven V. Oroho for his presence at the event and his ongoing support. Oroho represents District 24 in the northwest part of the state and is an advocate for Catholic schools and school choice.
“We are held to a higher standard because of you,” the senator told the students, acknowledging their accomplishments in and out of the classroom. Oroho also encouraged attendees to talk to legislators, especially about funding for school bus transportation, which has not increased since 2008.
The event was sponsored by the New Jersey Network of Catholic School Families, which exists to educate and mobilize individuals and organizations to be advocates of public policies that support the families whose children attend the Catholic schools of New Jersey. Speaking on behalf of the Network, Mary McElroy (Archdiocese of Newark) urged families to go to the New Jersey Catholic Conference website https://njcatholic.org/faith-in-action, where an action alert will help citizens ask Gov. Christie to raise the budget cap for non-public school transportation.
A highlight of the event was artwork from students in all dioceses reflecting the theme “How Catholic Schools Prepare Students to be Good Citizens.” Assistant superintendent Sister Rose DiFluri had the honor of awarding certificates to the top three submissions from young artists in the Diocese of Camden.
“It was hard to choose just three,” said Sister DiFluri. About 50 posters were submitted by students in the Camden Diocese for the statewide display.