Charity at the Heart of St. Francis Xavier CHS
St. Francis Xavier Catholic High School provides an intermediate and secondary program to 400 students in rural Hammond. Offering a myriad of programming options, the school boasts highly competitive athletics programs, music programs including a concert/jazz band, choir and intermediate band, French Immersion and three Specialist High Skills Major programs (Transportation, Health and Wellness, and Hospitality and Tourism).
Principal Ralph Sharples introduced members of the school community in attendance, including Vice-Principal Tracey Clarey, Chaplain Fr. John Whyte, Chaplaincy Leader Nick Ali, Teacher Tammy Oldford, and students Cassidy Lafleche, Alex Lavoie, Kaitlyn Provost, and Victoria Oldford. The group shared details about the school, including various programs offered and information about special events, social justice initiatives, community partnerships, and innovative fundraising strategies for the Guatemala Exposure Trip and other school programs.
Vice-Principal Clarey began with an introduction of the school’s Special Education Program.
“One of the things we are particularly proud of are our specialized Special Education classes. Our students don’t always have access to the specialized programs offered at St. Matthew or St. Luke, so we took it upon ourselves, with the support of the Board, to create some of our own programs,” began Clarey. “We have an Intermediate program called Bounce Back, which is a multidisciplinary program that captures a lot of students that may fall through the cracks otherwise, including students with autism, students with behavioural challenges, and students with anxiety or mental health concerns.”
The Grade 9 and 10 Foundations Program is also offered, along with the MEP program.
“Just about 10 per cent of the school population is part of one of the specialized special education programs,” noted Clarey.
The school also offers a Health and Wellness Program and an Automotive Program, which has helped learners to gain amazing skills, and to improve the employability of graduating students.
The school hosts four major events throughout the year including the annual Feast Day luncheon on December 3, and the Wheels and Heels event which attracts between 300 and 500 people and over 60 vendors set up in the school gymnasium.
The Feast Day of St. Francis Xavier was held on December 3, and is a school wide event which takes place annually.
“The Feast Day event focuses on building the triad of the church, the family, and the school. We have the Archbishop come to celebrate mass, as well as members of the executive council and trustees, and we celebrate as a school community,” explained Chaplaincy Lead Nick Ali.
The mass is followed by a lunch at Bourget Community Hall, and afterward the students go back to school to participate in fun, community building activities.
“Last year it was a student/teacher hockey game,” noted student Alex Lavoie.
The school’s SHOUT Team (Students Helping Others Unite Together) is open to both intermediate and secondary students. The SHOUT Team organizes and oversees many charitable initiatives including the school’s canned food drive, the Christmas Angels initiative, the annual Lenten clothing drive, and other fundraising initiatives for the local community. Currently, 65 students are part of the SHOUT Team.
“The main event is the canned food drive where between 1,500 and 2,000 items are collected, and it is done post-Thanksgiving, when the food bank is depleted,” explained student Victoria Oldford.
Christmas baskets are also assembled for families in need within the school community. Money is collected from all of the classes leading up to Christmas. In 2018, the school raised $1,500 which was used to purchase items for the baskets.
The baskets are delivered to families by Fr. John Whyte and the school Student Support Worker.
“The school is so generous with the baskets,” explained Fr. Whyte. “I get tears and phone calls and very sincere messages of thanks from the recipients, and it is really a highlight of Christmas for me.”
The Specialist High Skills Major (SHSM) – Hospitality Program has been offered at St. Francis Xavier Catholic High School for over five years. Taught by Louise LeClair, the program has 17 students participating this year, with six graduating in June with their SHSM. The program is designed to give students authentic learning experiences in preparing, presenting and catering, cultivating a sense of pride and accomplishment for the students.
“Our Hospitality and Tourism program has had a lot of growth over the last five years, especially in the way of facility improvements,” noted student Kaitlyn Provost. “We’ve recently received new induction stovetops, as well as an industrial dishwasher and sink, as well as a new convection oven, which helps to make a lot of food more quickly.”
The Hospitality and Tourism program also runs a school lunch program, which they fundraise for. The students prepare food, which is then frozen in individual portion sizes. This food is then distributed to students should they forget, or not have any lunch. The program is also supported by the Catholic School Council.
“Many thanks to the students and staff who came today to present about the outstanding programs and amazing charitable work happening at the school,” concluded Trustee Sue Wilson. “You have made the name of St. Francis Xavier well known throughout Prescott-Russell.”