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  • Megann Horstead

Partnership focus of University of St. Francis, St. Raymond

The University of St. Francis and St. Raymond of Nonnatus Grade School recently formalized a partnership to support Catholic education, and the annual celebration of Catholic Schools Week intends to highlight that.

This year’s theme for National Catholic Schools Week, which runs from Jan. 29 to Feb. 4, is “Catholic Schools: Communities of Faith, Knowledge and Service.”

Dr. Donna Metlicka, a faculty member in the University of St. Francis’ College of Education, said establishing the Cathedral Neighborhood Education Partnership with St. Raymond is crucial to the university’s intent to collaborate with area schools and celebrate Catholic education.

“At this point, it’s just St. Raymond’s,” she said. “We didn’t want to reach out to different schools if we didn’t have resources. We’re building it slowly to meet the needs of students. We are open to others joining as needs arise, opportunities arise.”

The origin of this partnership date back to within the last three to four years.

“When creating the partnership, it took a long time to investigate what we want,” Metlicka said. “We came up with four pillars—professional development, faith formation, student achievement and social. We both decided these are things we want to focus on to better the experiences of everyone.”

The partnership provides supports for Catholic education in more ways than one, Metlicka said.

“At USF’s College of Education, we want to support student achievement at St. Raymond,” she said. “One of the ways we do that is through professional development. USF faculty will go to St. Raymond for professional development.”

Metlicka said the collaboration does a wonderful job of benefitting both sides mutually.

“One of our goals at USF is to graduate exemplary teachers,” she said. “At St. Raymond, teachers may not be in USF’s College of Educations classes. We want to support them in being exemplary teachers to their students, as well as there are several St. Raymond teachers who graduated from USF.”

USF student-teacher candidates are often sent to St. Raymond, and the grade school has opened the doors for the university’s students to lend a hand in their classrooms.

Some initiatives launched over the years to support Catholic education, include free tutoring sessions provided by USF student-teacher candidates, opportunities for social work students to use knowledge gained from inside the classroom in the real world and leadership building activities.

“It wouldn’t be successful if both members didn’t benefit from it,” Metlicka said. “We we’re partnering with a like-minded institution, and we share the same mission as St. Raymond.”

The importance of Catholic tradition among community youth

“One of our pillars is faith formation,” Metlicka said. “In our theology classes, our teacher candidates go to St. Raymond to help them prepare for reconciliation and communion. They role play with (grade school students), so they know what to expect and they’re not so nervous.”

Metlicka refuted any concern or challenge for instilling the importance of Catholic tradition in community youth. To this, she said the partnership serves its aim.

“It is to support students who choose a Catholic education,” she said. “We support students who choose that, and we want to make that special. It is an additional support. They’re in a Catholic environment. We want them to explore that in a greater degree.”

Metlicka said moving forward, the university is excited for what the partnership’s future holds.

“We have hope and plan on continuing it as it benefits each party,” Metlicka said. “Each year, it grows. We plan on continuing down that path. We think its at its beginning. Both institutions would like to see it reach its potential. That will make a rich experience for USF as well as St. Raymond students.”

#Joliet #education

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