The greatest gift my parents ever gave me, was that of a Catholic education.
My three siblings and I grew up in a house in northwest Cedar Rapids which had one bathroom and no air conditioning. One year, our family piled into our minivan (all six of us!) to visit Disney World for a special vacation. And as much as I wanted to attend University of Iowa basketball camps, each summer I instead went to Regis High School’s camps (Dad told me they were better, and I’d learn more — looking back, he was right).
We may not have had everything we wanted, but my parents absolutely made sure we had everything we needed. For my parents, “needed” included all four McCarville children receiving a K-12 Catholic education. I do not know all the things my parents sacrificed over the years for us to attend St. Pius X Elementary and Regis/Xavier High School, but I’m sure it was a lot. Looking back today, I’m grateful beyond words for their many sacrifices.
I share my background with you because in many ways it’s not just my story. It’s also the story of many of our alumni and current families.
Members of our Xavier community work incredibly hard and because of that, we are incredibly proud. Catholic education in the Cedar Rapids Metro Area has contributed much not just to this community, but also to the lives of each student who has ever walked through our doors. On Jan. 31 we will begin an annual celebration filled with much joy, Catholic Schools Week.
Catholic schools such as Xavier are incredibly valuable to local communities. Property taxes are lowered significantly by the presence of Catholic schools. On statewide level, approximately $11,000 is spent annually per child within Iowa public schools. The roughly 26,000 students within Catholic schools across the state save taxpayers approximately $286 million per year.
At Xavier, our average ACT score is 24.3, with 60 percent of our juniors and seniors participating in AP courses. Additionally, we offer partnership programs for students who desire to learn a trade. Our students move onto their postsecondary experience extremely well-prepared. 95 percent of our students are involved in a co- or extracurricular activity. It is hard to fall through the cracks at Xavier.
But what we celebrate the most each year during Catholic Schools Week is the fact we are centered on Jesus. Jesus is at the heart of our school and everything we do. Our focus on Jesus doesn’t make us better, just different. In a world which increasingly pushes Jesus further away, we very much celebrate the fact we are different.
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Looking back at my childhood, I’m grateful for going to bed some nights in a house with 70 percent humidity. I’m grateful for being packed in a minivan on a 1,277-mile journey to Disney World. And despite never playing varsity basketball, I’m grateful for having gone to Regis basketball camps. Had my parents not made those decisions, among many others, a Catholic education likely would not have been possible for myself and my siblings.
My story is the story of so many others, both today and of years gone by. Catholic education makes a difference.
Apologies in advance if you hear some hollering this week from Xavier and other Catholic schools in the area. We can’t help but have pride.
Chris McCarville is president of Xavier High School in Cedar Rapids.