Elementary school in Maplewood reaches out to diverse population

| March 20, 2019 | 0 Comments

For Anne Gattman at St. Jerome School in Maplewood, bringing more students into Catholic schools is all about an open heart and open arms.

After seeing a number of children playing two summers ago on the school grounds north of St. Paul where she serves as principal, she learned they were Catholic members of the Karen people of Burma who have fled violence in their home country. Many of their families spent years in refugee camps in Thailand, where the children received a scattered education, before being granted refugee status in the United States.

As detailed in a September 2018 story in The Catholic Spirit, Gattman began inviting the families to send their children to St. Jerome.

This school year, she secured a three-year grant from the GHR Foundation in Minneapolis to hire a teacher for English as a second language. Now, many of the Karen children are part of an increase of 34 students this school year at St. Jerome, boosting total enrollment in kindergarten through eighth grade from 102 students to 136.

Add in preschool, and St. Jerome, an elementary school that relies on donations and grants to help families strapped for tuition, grew this year from 134 to 168 students, Gattman said.

All together, the school is serving 47 Karen students. It’s been a wonderful opportunity, Gattman said. “I love working with a very diverse group of families.”

It’s also an example of how Catholic schools can help others and increase enrollment in the process, she said.

“The idea of opening your arms, having an openness to the community, that is something each Catholic school could do,” Gattman said. “And to really believe that access to a Catholic education should be available to all those who want one.”

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Category: Local News