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RELIGION

Education, faith key to Central City Ministry of Toledo

School is longest-operating K-8 school in city

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    Teacher Connie Taylor helps Dereonna Huston during class at Rosary Cathedral Catholic School.

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    Third graders in Ashley Kravetsky's class answer questions about fractions at Rosary Cathedral Catholic School.

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    ‘Love God. Love Others. That's it!’ is the motto of Rosary Cathedral Catholic School, which has about 225-250 students from kindergarten through eighth grade.

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    Guzman

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A typical day at Queen of Apostles School might find a sixth-grader identifying the parts of a microscope in science class, a third-grader tossing a football in the gym, and a kindergartner enthusing about caterpillars from a colorful classroom rug.

The caterpillars — one for each student in individual plastic cups — will turn into butterflies, as the young students tell visitors with authority. But they’re not quite sure when.

They’re the sort of sights and sounds that are familiar to any school. And, at Queen of Apostles, they’re perhaps especially familiar: The school, at 235 Courtland Ave., is the longest-operating K-8 school in Toledo.

Queen of Apostles is believed to have opened its doors, as Immaculate Conception, in 1867. Its counterpart, Rosary Cathedral Catholic School, followed in 1915. Both are administered under the Central City Ministry of Toledo, a branch of the Diocese of Toledo, and draw on a rich history in the community while maintaining an eye toward faith and the future.

Central City Ministry of Toledo will recognize both its past and its future at its Urban All-American Celebration on Tuesday. The annual fund-raiser recognizes alumni of CCMT schools — this year 11 Toledo police officers who graduated from now-closed elementary schools between 1969 and 1996 — as well as two stand-out eighth-graders.

The Rev. Mark Thesing, chaplain for the University of Notre Dame football team, will be this year’s keynote speaker.

In the same buildings where sports trophies recall victories dating back to the ’50s, for example, uniformed students tap on Chromebooks that, as of this year, connect wirelessly to the internet. At Queen of Apostles, a basement robotics setup allows students to program, test and retest the creations they hope to take to competition next year. And at Rosary Cathedral, students are participating in a step-dancing team for the first time this year.

“We’re constantly looking at ways to evolve,” CCMT Executive Director Greg Guzman said.

CCMT once counted at least 15 schools under its oversight. Mr. Guzman, himself a graduate of a now-closed CCMT school, St. James, largely credited changing demographics in the city for the closures. The schools schools are not affiliated with an individual Catholic parish, as are most schools in the 19-county diocese, but are supported by the diocese as a whole.

Queen of Apostles and Rosary Cathedral stand alone in Toledo’s inner-city neighborhoods in providing a faith-based education. They primarily serve low-income families, with students paying little to no tuition through the Northwest Ohio Scholarship Fund and, to a greater extent, the Education Choice Scholarship Fund. The latter, which is also known as EdChoice, enables students from underperforming schools to attend participating private schools.

The schools also receive significant community support, including business partnerships with The Andersons for Queen of Apostles and Mercy Health for Rosary Cathedral.

Mr. Guzman said Queen of Apostles and Rosary Cathedral boast a 99 percent graduation rate. Ninety-five percent of graduates later continue to college.

Faith is a key part of the curriculum at both schools, both in the classroom and in weekly masses at nearby Catholic churches. While teachers instill Catholic values and traditions, students need not be Catholic to attend. Mr. Guzman said the majority of students at Rosary Cathedral — around 98 percent — are not Catholic.

Rosary Cathedral works closely with the nearby First Church of God, where Mr. Guzman said many families attend. Queen of Apostles sees a higher percentage of Catholic students; Mr. Guzman put the estimate around 70 percent.

Sister Joselyn Weeman, principal at Queen of Apostles, said a faith-based education is often appealing to families whose views are not strictly Catholic. She and Mr. Guzman said they believe this is key among the reasons families choose to enroll their children in the schools.

“I think religion is a big part of it,” Sister Joselyn said.

“I honestly believe that is the draw,” Mr. Guzman added. “We teach our students to have hope, even though they can’t see it. We teach them to have faith in something bigger than themselves.”

Contact Nicki Gorny at: ngorny@theblade.com or 419-724-6133.

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