By Jeff Grant, The Catholic Sun
GLENDALE, Ariz. – Since 2014, when STREAM – the Catholic extension of STEM, the integration of science, technology, engineering and math into every aspect of learning to provide a more well-rounded student – was introduced, the initiative has been taking Catholic students to the next level in their education. STREAM captured STEM’s principals but tailored the approach, adding religion and the arts to form youngsters in the faith.
A key component of STREAM – and STEM — is physical resources, such as computers, modern equipment and facilities to provide educators the necessary support.
Youngsters at Our Lady of Perpetual Help School in Glendale will be among the latest to receive those resources with an addition to the school through the generosity of one of the Diocese of Phoenix’s foremost education construction donors.
Officials of the 300-student school and OLPH Parish Wednesday welcomed Diocesan leaders and area executives of homebuilder Shea Homes to the Orangewood Avenue campus near Grand Avenue in central Glendale on May 4 for the groundbreaking of a new 10,000-square-foot Innovation and Arts Center that will further enable the school to use the latest technology and resources under the faith-based STREAM umbrella.
The project, the cost of which was not immediately available, is being carried out by Shea, in partnership with the Diocese and with help from Phoenix-based Knipp Contracting. Shea has been aiding Diocesan schools for nearly a decade, including previous renovations to OLPH.
The latest enterprise falls in line with Shea’s values of not only aiding Catholic schools but helping lower-resource populations. Founded in 1950, OLPH serves grades Pre-K through 8 in a majority blue-collar area that is largely Latino.
“I’m really delighted to join you today,” Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted said, thanking Shea representatives, including Area President Hal Looney and Project Manager Dan Southworth, Principal Jeanette Weivoda, and OLPH Pastor, Fr. Ernesto Reynoso, JCL.
“What a great partner Shea Homes have been for us in so many ways with their constant commitment to us. This is really building for the future for many, many years,” the bishop told the gathering.
“This is the place where you make good friends, you grow in the knowledge of liberal arts and practical arts, and especially grow in your love for God,” he added.
OLPH students were on hand, giving Looney a hearty “Yeah!” when asked if they were excited over the new building, which will include learning spaces and offices.
“We really look forward to this,” Looney told the youngsters. “We feel it is going to provide a great avenue for all of you to be educated in new ways and learn new things and have new opportunities.”
An opening date was not immediately announced, but Wally Knipp, president of Knipp Contracting, said he looks forward to that day.
“We’re excited to see what this is going to do and how this is going to contribute to this location. I’m thankful I can be a part of this,” Knipp said.
The National Catholic Education Association, which represents 6,568 Catholic schools around the country and works with Catholic educators to support ongoing faith formation and the teaching mission of the Church, says STREAM schools should “integrate Catholic identity into every aspect of the curriculum’ while maintaining a commitment to innovation and inclusiveness. Catholic schools have been putting this approach to work for years, highlighting the interrelation of religion and Catholic values with the STEM subjects and the arts. However, OLPH has lacked the equipment and facilities to do so.
Fr. Reynoso said that is about to change.
“Our project is directed to bridge the wisdom of the past with the innovation of the future into the opportunities of the present.”
– Fr. Ernesto Reynoso, JCL, pastor OLPH, Glendale
“Our goal is to introduce our kids to a new world of opportunities by teaching them systems that are being used worldwide to solve the current challenges our societies are facing. With the support of Shea Homes and the Diocese of Phoenix, our investment is in our kids, and our project is directed to bridge the wisdom of the past with the innovation of the future into the opportunities of the present.
“Following the vision of Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted for our Catholic schools, we are going to rediscover in a creative way the beauty, goodness and truth of our Catholic faith,” Fr. Reynoso added.
Weivoda, the school’s principal, felt “extraordinarily blessed” to see the project start. She said that OLPH staff seeks daily to live out Jesus’ teaching, recorded in the Gospel of Mark (9:37), which states, “Anyone who welcomes a little child such as this in my name, welcomes me. And everyone who welcomes me, welcomes not only me, but the One who sent me,” she quoted.
“With the generosity of such benefactors as the Shea organization, we will soon be able to enhance our instructional practice to ensure our students’ future success, be it at a Catholic high school or college, or in a future professional career, and most importantly, in Heaven.”