On the early morning of May 14, and (OLHC) students stood in a long line, waiting to help paint a mural.
The mural depicts a brown cross in its center with a rainbow standing high in the background. Its colorful ends reach from one side of the mural to the other.
At the top are the words: “Queen of Angels” – the name of the new Catholic regional school these students will soon call home.
In helping to paint this large, canvas mural, each student took a turn having the palms of their hands painted a particular color; then marked the mural with their unique handprint.
“So, it leaves a little piece of everybody,” Sarah Galbreadth, an OLHC parent, said with a smile.
Galbreadth, along with a balanced number of St. David and OLHC parent volunteers, is a member of the Queen of Angels Unity Committee, which is a committee of the Queen of Angels Implementation Team.
School by the end of this school year. The merger is a result of the Philadelphia Archdiocese’s announcement in January that nearly half its 156 elementary schools will close and merge with other diocese schools.
As part of the St. David and OLHC merging process, the Unity Committee was tasked to create a series of “Unity Days,” so that the students of both schools get used to the idea of attending one school.
The took place on April 2, during which Abington-based OLHC students visited St. David School in Willow Grove to participate in various youth-friendly icebreaker activities.
A second unity day took place at the Palace roller skating rink, located in Northeast Philadelphia.
The May 14 Unity Day (the final in the series) had OLHC students returning to the St. David School.
Giving Service to Get Unity
In addition to creating a new school mural, students in grades kindergarten through eighth, also participated in several service projects.
According to Galbreadth, the service projects were ideas given by the Implementation Team and school communities, which included:
- Military Service Cards – cards made and decorated by the students to present well wishes for service men and women overseas.
- Breakfast Bags – each bag was filled with breakfast-themed food items, such as oatmeal packets to benefit the Aid for Friends organization. This organization benefits the elderly and homebound.
- Snack Bags – food items, such as pudding containers, were placed into bags. These bags will go to participants of Breathing Room Foundation programs. This organization outreaches to families coping with loved ones suffering from cancer.
- Flower Pot Decorating – small, plastic flower pots decorated to bring some cheer to Breathing Room, Camilla Hall (a convent home in Malvern) and the Ronald McDonald House.
- Decorating Care Packages – For cancer patients and their loved ones going on a retreat with the nonprofit For Pete’s Sake.
- Crayon Pictures – done by the younger students for the nonprofit Color Me a Smile.
According to Galbreadth, the Implementation team collected and paid for each of the items going to the various service projects.
The students created an assembly line, working together to complete each task.
“I think it’s nice that we’re doing a project of service, it’s the essence of Catholic education,” Susan McErlean, a St. David parent volunteer, said. “It’s thinking of others before yourself. And, what better way for the students to get to know each other?”
Several St. David and OLHC parent volunteers helped coordinate the Unity Day service activities.
“It’s a way to show our faith in service to our community,” Amy Fayette, St. David parent volunteer and Unity Committee member, said. “And, it shows the importance of why we’re here.”
As a Unity Committee member, Fayette said that the efforts of the Implementation Team have been a huge success, in terms of bringing the students closer together. She said this was clearly evident through various CYO sporting events, when students from both schools often cheered for one another.
“We know each other through CYO,” Michaela Whelan, a seventh-grade St. David student said.
Standing in line to help paint the mural, Michaela was smiling and chatting away with three other seventh grade students from both schools.
“This is great because we get to hang out with all the people we know and have more fun,” Erin Martin a seventh-grade OLHC student, standing with Michaela, said.
“And, so we’ll know more people next year,” Shannon May, also a seventh-grade OLHC student excitedly added.
Head administrators from both schools have expressed their own approval as to how well the student Unity efforts went.
“The nice thing about it is that the students get to know each other before the new school year,” Jack Bellantoni, OLHC principal said.
“I think that it went very well,” Sister Angela Joseph, St. David principal, said. “And, the Implementation Team has gelled well.”
Hanging the Queen of Angels Mural Out to Dry
By the end of the Unity event, Galbreadth was helping OLHC students to load the community service items into the back of Unity Committee members’ mini-vans.
When asked how well the volunteer parents from both schools worked together in the Implementation teams, she said it was a sign for an even stronger home and school association.
“We work very well, so hopefully we’ll join other committees together,” she said.
In a correspondence with Patch, Galbreadth captured the spirit of the Unity Day events with this note:
Just wanted to mention one last thing about today's Unity Event between OLHC and St David's schools. After you left today, while cleaning up, a few moms picked up the mural in the upper school (that each child contributed their hand-print to) and started to hang it on the wall to dry.
All the children turned and noticed and erupted in cheers.
It was amazing and what this school merge should be all about.