St. Pascal student prepares to be principal for evening

| August 23, 2017 | 0 Comments

Mario Esteb, a student at St. Pascal Baylon School in St. Paul, sits at the desk of his principal Laurie Jennrich. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

Every student’s fear is to be sent to the principal’s office.

Mario Esteb may be doing much more than that after school begins Sept. 5. The soon-to-be eighth-grader at St. Pascal Baylon Catholic School in St. Paul could end up hanging around Principal Laurie Jennrich for a good chunk of a school day.

That’s just fine with him. The experience will serve as research for an upcoming event in which he will serve as emcee, portraying a school principal for the evening. The Aim Higher Foundation recruited him for its fifth annual Night of Light fundraiser Sept. 22 at the JW Marriott Minneapolis Mall of America in Bloomington.

The foundation, which provides scholarships to Catholic school students, wanted to pick someone attending a Catholic school who also has acting ability and experience.

Esteb, 13, fits the bill. He began acting professionally when he was 10, performing in productions for the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts in St. Paul and Children’s Theatre Company in Minneapolis.

His experience being around a principal, however, is limited.

“I’ve never been in the principal’s office,” he noted.

“We’ve always gotten good reports on him, that he’s a good student,” said his mother, Rose, of her youngest child’s record since enrolling at St. Pascal in kindergarten. “He’s never gotten into trouble in almost eight years.”

He once played principal for a day while in third grade. His parents won the role in a fundraising auction. Unfortunately, Mario remembers little from that experience.

But, what he lacks in material he more than makes up for in talent. Both his mother and his principal are confident he will learn what he needs for the role. Jennrich said she will do what it takes to help him along.

“You better follow me around for a day, really learn the ropes,” she told him on a quiet summer afternoon in her office during an interview with The Catholic Spirit. “We better have a shadow day, so he gets it all down. They’ve got a superstar if they’ve got Mario in their production, that’s for sure. He’s been in a lot of performances, and what amazes me is he always keeps up with his schoolwork.”

Esteb started out as a dancer, and was doing well when the Ordway called his dance studio looking for young boys who could dance. He and three other boys auditioned, and he was the only one called back, eventually landing a role in “A Christmas Story.”

“He’s been busy ever since. It’s been kind of cool,” said Rose, a St. Pascal alumna, who went on to attend Hill-Murray High School in Maplewood where she met her husband, Kris. “Since he was little, he’s always been putting on a show. So, I think [acting] fits him.”

Though Mario is excited about the upcoming role, he doesn’t entertain thoughts of making education his career someday. Another passion has been growing, which connects with his theater work. “I want to be a sports broadcaster when I’m older,” he said.

“He’s been saying that,” Rose noted. “He likes sports. He knows a lot of information about a lot of players on a lot of different teams, college [and] professional.”

Jennrich, however, wonders if playing the role might change his mind about the profession. For now, she will remain content watching him perform. In December, he will be in the Children’s Theatre production of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”

“We’ve already got all our tickets ordered, and we are all going to get on the bus and go watch the performance — the whole school and all the teachers,” Jennrich said.

“We’re really proud of Mario,” she added. “It’s very fun keeping up with his productions, and we’re really excited to have him be principal” at Night of Light.

For more information about Night of Light, visit


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Category: Back to School