MADISON -- Catholic schools are making a difference in the world. Graduates of Catholic schools in the Diocese of Madison prove it.
According to Maryann Slater, principal of Blessed Sacrament School in Madison, Eileen Harrington is one such graduate "making a world of difference."
After Harrington graduated from Blessed Sacrament School in 1987, she attended Edgewood High School in Madison. She received a degree in biology and environmental studies from Macalester College; then she joined the Peace Corps in 1996. For the next four years, she trained rural teachers in Paraguay in environmental education and designed and directed environmental programs for schools and businesses.
While Harrington pursued a master's degree in environmental studies from York University in Toronto, her thesis project involved working with farmers, teachers, and students in Costa Rica, developing programs to promote shade and organic coffee in southern Costa Rica.
"Because of a decreased reliance on chemical pesticides and fertilizers and the secondary products obtained from trees, shade and organic coffee can improve the economic standing and quality of life of coffee producers," said Slater. "In addition, as tropical forests continue to disappear, agricultural lands are becoming an increasingly important source of habitat for wildlife."
Harrington is now in her first year as a Spanish teacher for Blessed Sacrament School students in first through eighth grade. "She brings her experiences living and working in Paraguay and Costa Rica to her Spanish classes," said Slater.
"During my time at Blessed Sacrament School, they had missionaries coming in and giving talks. I remember as a student being fascinated by them," said Harrington when asked how her Catholic education influenced her. "That had a big impact" as did service projects at the school and in Girl Scouts, which also fostered her love of the environment.
It is important for students to increase their awareness of other countries because "we're becoming a more global world," she said. "We're connected to other countries as well. I try to open the students' worlds to different ways of living and thinking."
Another product of Catholic education who has made an impact on the world around him is Judd Schemmel, who is being recognized Jan. 31 as the National Catholic Educational Association Distinguished Graduate of 2003 at Edgewood Campus School in Madison.
After graduating from Edgewood Campus School in 1976, Schemmel attended Edgewood High School for two years and then graduated from West High School. After earning a bachelor of arts degree from Marquette University in Milwaukee in 1985, he received his juris doctorate from the Marquette University School of Law in 1988.
He currently serves as executive director of the Wisconsin Council of Religious and Independent Schools, which advocates for parents, children, and member schools; seeks equal educational opportunities; talks with government officials to ensure fair and just public policies; and facilitates communication and collaboration between member schools.
Schemmel and his wife, Lisa, and son, Sam, are parishioners at Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish in Madison, where Schemmel is vice president of the education commission. Seven-year-old Sam attends Our Lady Queen of Peace School.
"Being educated primarily in Catholic schools set a foundation in two ways: 1) in getting a good, solid starting point in education; and 2) it helped me to grow as a person spiritually," said Schemmel, noting that a faith-based environment truly makes a difference on young lives. "It established an ethical framework as well as an academic framework."
Catholic education helps children try to make a difference in the world around them because "they're instilled with a sense of an obligation to themselves, to their families, to their church, to the ideals of the parish and what it stands for," he said.
"The exposure to that and the opportunity to live that out in a school environment establishes a framework for them for the rest of their lives."
Laurie Bardenwerper, 17, daughter of Sharon and Jim Bardenwerper, is another Catholic school graduate who is striving to make a difference.
A graduate of St. John the Baptist School in Waunakee, Bardenwerper is now a senior at Waunakee High School. She is a National Merit Scholarship semi-finalist who is involved in various extra-curricular activities such as tennis, band, choir, vocal jazz, jazz band, and the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestra. At St. John the Baptist Parish, she is a cantor and choir member. She is also a member of a Girl Scout troop.
Next fall she plans to attend St. Olaf College in Minnesota and major in English.
"Academically I think the smaller classes helped a lot (at St. John the Baptist School) because the early years are when you learn good study habits," said Bardenwerper.
"It was also nice to have Mass every Friday." She recalled that each class was in charge of doing the readings at certain Masses. "It was nice to get involved early on. That influenced me to be a cantor and choir member."
She also appreciated being able to talk about religion in school.
How does Bardenwerper try to make a difference in the world? She is a sponsor for a seven-year-old orphan girl in Burma. For the past few years, Bardenwerper has sent $72 every six months to help this little girl get an education.
"Without someone to send money to her, this girl would have nothing," she said.
Camp Gray: A summer place equipping children for faith and fun
You might have heard the expression that with the right set of tools a person can fix anything.
Regardless of whether you are very handy or you require detailed instructions to operate a folding chair, there is a grain of wisdom in this saying. The right tools make a tough job possible and easier.
Camp Gray is dedicated to equipping children with emotional and spiritual tools they need in order to mature, make good decisions, and grow closer to God.
Combine this with some rip-roaring, foot-stomping, plain-old good times, and Camp Gray is the perfect mix of faith and fun. Campers get to participate in such activities as mountain biking, rock climbing, canoeing, horseback riding, and swimming all in the context of exploring themselves and their faith.
They are challenged to try new things and be adventurous in the midst of a supportive community. After talking with campers, parents, and staff alike, it becomes apparent that Camp Gray is changing not only the lives of kids but rather all those who experience it.
The summer roster fills faster and faster every year as more and more families discover all that Camp Gray has to offer. In the words of one parent from a summer evaluation, "I consider Camp Gray to be a strong sign that God cares deeply for our personal needs."
So what makes camp so popular?
"Part of the reason," according to Camp Director Phil DeLong, "is that the programs have been designed with the developmental needs of children in mind. So as the campers grow and mature, the programs change with them. Programs for older campers have new challenges, more responsibility, and more flexibility."
The high-energy, fun-filled traditional Settler and Trailblazer programs are offered for campers from second through eighth grades. Campers take part in morning program areas such as archery, canoeing, or arts-and-crafts, and they spend their evenings at such events as a water carnival (black tie optional, swimsuit recommended) or a cookout and Capture the Flag extravaganza.
The Pathfinder program, available for eighth through 10th graders, focuses on having the campers discover themselves as individuals through activities such as doing low ropes course elements and having more in-depth devotions.
Offered to 10th and 11th graders, the Explorer program gives campers the opportunity to live, cook, sleep, play, and pray with their counselors on their own in the woods of Explorer village. Their focus is on developing community and leadership.
Two of the newer programs to camp for the more adventurous are the Ranch and Voyageur programs. Ranchers spend their week learning to ride and care for horses while living a more rustic cowboy and cowgirl life. Voyageurs travel off camp for a week of backpacking or canoeing coupled with outdoor survival and powerful community building.
There is also the Pioneer program, which is a half-week, for the youngest campers in first and second grade. A Counselor-in-Training program is for 12th graders looking to learn and practice the skills it takes to be a camp counselor.
Emotional, spiritual tools
Camp Gray is unique because of its commitment to faith formation and to the training of young leaders.
"Giving Kids What They Need to Succeed," published by the Search Institute, states that children need a host of different influences in order to make wise decisions, choose positive paths, and grow up competent, caring, and responsible. A number of these tools, such as empowerment or social skills, can only be gained in a community setting like a camp.
This sort of growth is achieved at Camp Gray by fostering a safe and supportive environment in which kids feel comfortable to be themselves. As one camper parent writes, "I was impressed with how the children feel accepted and at ease to be themselves" and are "given opportunities to do activities of their choosing during the week."
Another parent notes, "I appreciate the fact that my kids are going to be safe and surrounded by people who care and listen to them. I appreciate the spiritual messages incorporated into their everyday activities."
Growing in faith
Faith is an integral part of the daily life at camp. Praising God and growing in faith are practiced in many ways throughout the day. There are morning praises with modern praise and worship songs, fun graces, nightly devotions, and Mass at the end of the week.
It doesn't stop there though. Christian values are incorporated into all the activities that go on at camp. From praying before Capture the Flag, to service projects, to the way the staff and the campers themselves interact with one another, faith is brought to life through actions.
Recognizing this wonderful aspect of Camp Gray, a parent writes, "Our kids learned that it's cool to have God in their lives, and having fun and having Christ in their lives are not mutually exclusive."
Staff as role models
According to DeLong, there's no mystery about how all these great things happen at camp. "Hands down, it's the staff that makes Camp Gray what it is. For example, in the summer evaluations we receive, parents are asked what impressed them most about camp. Overwhelmingly, parents respond that it's the staff and their enthusiasm that impressed them most."
"The Camp Gray staff is composed of spectacular young adults that are great models of faith, compassion, and excitement who simply love to work with kids." This sentiment is echoed by parents as well. One parent writes, "Spirituality meets spunk! The staff was fabulous, funny, and faith-filled. I wish I were 11 again!"
Over the past three years Camp Gray has also been blessed with some additional year-round staff in the form of volunteer program specialists.
Their service enables the camp to offer a number of year-round programs in addition to the summer camp program. Some of these year-round programs include: Environmental Stewardship retreats for schools, Confirmation and youth group retreats, tower climbing, and team building activities. These exciting new ministries are available at camp throughout the school year, and there are still dates available this winter and spring.
Camp Gray, located between Baraboo and Wisconsin Dells, is owned and operated by the Catholic Diocese of Madison. It is also fully accredited by the American Camping Association.
How to sign up
Summer sessions are filling up fast, so don't wait to sign up. Visit www.campgray.com to read more detailed information on summer and year-round camp programs, to see an updated session chart, and to print out an application. Call 1-800-711-4729 or e-mail email@example.com with any questions or to receive a brochure and application by mail.