A school for children who live ‘where it’s not easy to grow up’


Photo by James A. McBride

sacredheartschoolkids-webIn left photo, Kindergarten children at Sacred Heart School, Camden, listen to their teacher.

Fourth in a series of profiles of the five Catholic Partnership Schools, the others being St. Joseph, St. Anthony of Padua, Holy Name and St. Cecilia. The stated goal of the Partnership is to develop “already good schools into great schools” because education holds the greatest promise for breaking the cycle of poverty.

As an anchor in the community, Sacred Heart School has provided Catholic education to South Camden, an impoverished area known for its resilience and spirit, for the past 90-plus years.

“Parents are looking for a safe, Christian environment, along with strong academics” to send their children to, said school principal Janet Williams.

With 212 students enrolled this year, primarily African-American with Hispanic and Asian students rounding out the population, Sacred Heart is one of the schools led by Catholic Partnership Schools, an organization committed to the five Camden-area elementary schools, in sustaining a safe and nurturing environment that prepares students for the future.

The partnership “gives students chances to do things, and the education they deserve,” Williams noted.

An art room, science lab, and student government (6th-8th grade) provide stimulation inside the classroom, while track, basketball, choir and a new drama club (housed in the new South Camden Theatre) keep students busy after the bell rings.

With a sponsor-a-student program, individuals can provide part of the tuition for Sacred Heart’s students, lessening the burden on families that would otherwise not be able to provide their children with a quality Catholic education.

Williams expressed her gratitude for Msgr. Michael Doyle, parish pastor, and parishioners for their support for the school, calling them “incredibly generous.”

Without a community like Sacred Heart, Williams adds, “South Camden would be in bad shape; they need this.”

The school is a “vital part of the ministry of Sacred Heart Church, to educate young people in Camden, where it’s not easy to grow up,” said Msgr. Doyle.

“The children here always say that they feel safe and happy,” he said. “Catholic schools are important everywhere, but most important in places like Camden.”