A letter from St. John Elementary School parent, Kelli Piepkow…

“Teach me knowledge and good judgement, for I trust your commands.” Psalm 119:66

The school year has begun! I know for a lot of parents – myself included – there is a bittersweet mix of sadness at saying goodbye to the lazy days and the excitement of ushering in a new school year. A chance for our kiddos to start fresh, continue learning – and get out of the house!

My eldest daughter is a kindergartner this year at St. John’s. My youngest still attends daycare a few days a week while my husband and I work, but next year we plan on enrolling her at St. John, too.

I think that it’s easy for people to assume that if you send your kids to a Catholic school, you must be rolling in cash and there is no sacrifice involved with that choice.

How I wish that were true!

Rather, our children’s education at a Catholic school is something we both believe so strongly in, we are willing to adapt our monthly expenses to allow for the tuition payment. Now, I know many families simply do not have that choice, and many have their own reasons for choosing the terrific public school options in our community. We are fortunate that the schools in the Jackson area keep getting better and better, making the decision about where to send kids harder and harder!

I sometimes get asked why we are so committed to the girls attending Catholic school. Don’t we know that several options in the county have wonderful, committed teachers and excellent academic programs? Wouldn’t we rather spend the tuition money on family vacations, or save it to help with college down the road? Well, we have three reasons: Faith, Family, and Friendship. Here’s a bit about each, as our family views them.

Faith – With my kids in a faith-centered school, I know they are learning about the fundamentals of what we believe in, and they attend mass weekly. We try to apply Jesus’ teachings in our own home every day – but it’s nice to know Chase is getting reinforcement from other people she looks to in her life (such as her teachers). Being kind to one another is an important component of what she learns every day – as much as reading or math. Sometimes I feel there is nothing more important for her to learn.

Family – What I really appreciate about the Catholic school system here in Jackson is the shared values. I have such peace of mind knowing that Chase is going to school with kids whose parents hold similar value systems to mine. Prioritizing family and being there for the community is a shared perspective that I see time and again in the parents at our school. Discipline, responsibility, doing your absolute best in academic or athletic endeavors, and caring for those less fortunate are things that are important to us, and to other parents in our school system. Through the success of ongoing programs like sending cards to the elderly in our community, or donating to various food shelters, the school makes it known that supporting those who can be forgotten by society is part of practicing our faith. I’d like to think that if Chase went to school somewhere else, we’d take the time to instill those values in her – but, as it stands, I know those values are reinforced every day whether I’m there or not.

 Friendship – A big part of choosing a school was understanding where some of our lifelong friends were sending their kids. I myself attended St. John’s, and so did some of my local friends. We have great memories and want to continue the tradition. But the bonds formed at these schools go far beyond history.

     Several years ago, a Jackson area friend passed away in the Iraq War. He attended the Catholic school system, along with several siblings. I lived in Chicago at the time but came home for the services. His brother told me that on the night that the news of his death was released, a vigil and rosary was organized on his parents’ front lawn. He mentioned that it was comprised mainly of old classmates, staff, and church -goers from his family’s Catholic school days (though he had graduated long ago). The group didn’t try to talk to the family or intrude on their grief in any way – they just brought food, candles, and prayers – and their love and solidarity. There’s something special about that. Maybe you can find that at any school with a close -knit community. That’s not a chance I’m willing to take, I feel encouraged and supported by our school community – whether I need help with a car pool, a prayer, or a little extra attention for an out -of-sorts kid, our St. John’s network is there and willing to help.

Believe me, I know Catholic schools require a sacrifice. I remember my Dad dropping me off at school in the morning in his rusty old car, and I was mortified. But now, as a parent, I can see all of the sacrifices my parents made to provide the options they thought were best. I know that’s all any parent wants. Please consider our Catholic system if you have children beginning school. It is a sacrifice – but it’s one your children will thank you for, long after graduation.

God’s Grace,

Kelli Piepkow