Students know their priorities the moment they enter St. Joseph Catholic School. A sign by the front door reads, “Our Goals: College. Heaven.’’
Inside the West Tampa school’s cafeteria, boys and girls gather for Holy Karaoke, a morning program that encourages them to dance and sing, and focus on the lessons ahead.
Cartoon pumpkins belt out “Blue Moon’’ while bobbing across a giant movie screen. Sister Nivia Arias, in full habit, croons along at the pulpit before prompting her charges to recite daily affirmations.
“We are active learners who do our best work every day,’’ little voices say in unison. “We do the right thing at the right time.”
The saying sums up the philosophy of this 116-year-old parochial school once run by Salesian nuns. It may also be prophetic.
Like other Catholic schools across the nation, St. Joseph struggles with limited resources while trying to attract students and teachers. But a new partnership with the Diocese of St. Petersburg and the University of Notre Dame might be the right thing at the right time.
St. Joseph and another local Catholic school, Sacred Heart in Pinellas Park, are among five schools in the nation taking part in the Notre Dame ACE Academies, a pilot program in conjunction with the university’s Alliance for Catholic Education that aims to strengthen Catholic schools and the communities they serve.
The idea is to boost enrollment and help schools develop better leadership, curriculum, instruction, financial management and marketing.