Connect America, Benedictine University-style, began March 31, 1998 when the University (a small, private liberal arts college) officially partnered with the Marksville Catholic School in rural Marksville, Louisiana. This “adopt-a-school” program brings two distinct schools together, providing three essential components, including: service learning, student teaching opportunities, and scholarships.
Marksville’s community needs are great. The Marksville Holy Ghost Catholic School enrolls approximately 175 students in grades kindergarten through eight. This school’s history has been less than satisfactory in having its graduates matriculate to colleges and universities. In rural Louisiana communities, like Marksville, needs are great and opportunities for growth are infrequent.
When the school was on the verge of closing in 1997, Brigadier General, Sherian Cadoria, US Army Retired, agreed to serve one year as the volunteer school principal. She continues to serve as the volunteer principal. There were no funds to hire a lay teacher and the Pastor did not have the necessary experience to administrate a school. Upon entering the school, she found raw sewage, methane gas leaks, falling ceilings, outdated textbooks and only two of the 10 teachers were board certified.
The achievements associated with this partnership are noteworthy. Benedictine Univeristy students and faculty assist Holy Ghost School in tutoring, teaching, curriculum development and faculty development. There is a shared cultural exchange, which offers the rural children hopes that extend beyond their small town.
For two years, faculty and students from Benedictine University have traveled to Marksville in the summer to provide weeks of “sweat equity.” They have cleaned, repaired, renovated, caulked, primed, and painted the interior and exterior of the buildings. During the University’s 1998-99 and 1999-00 winter breaks, education majors and faculty spent two weeks with the students and teachers of Holy Ghost School working as teacher’s assistants, researchers, curriculum developers and mentors to the youth. The University volunteers spend their time outside of the classroom offering friendship and cultural exchanges, encouraging success and inspiring hope in the students.