SOE-archdiocese volunteer program

Urban Catholic Schools Effort to Be Launched

By Sandra Howe
Staff Writer

Beginning next year, newly minted School of Education graduates will have the opportunity to begin their careers as volunteers in Boston's inner-city Catholic schools through a new program designed by SOE and the Archdiocese of Boston.

The Inner City Catholic Teacher Corps annually will send a dozen fresh SOE graduates to teach in Boston's Catholic schools, beginning in the summer of 1997. A key component of the collaborative will be free housing, provided by the archdiocese, where the BC graduates will live in a faith community.

The program will target K-8 classrooms in its first year. A planning committee is working on site selection and recruitment, as well as the design of a professional development program that will lead to teacher re-certification for both the volunteers and participating teachers from the archdiocesan schools.

"We feel the inner-city Catholic schools play a vital role in the development of children in Boston and this program is a reflection of our commitment to provide a quality education to children all across the city," said SOE Dean Gerald Pine.

"We are happy to be working collaboratively with Boston College and see this program as a real sign of hope for the Catholic schools in Boston," added Mary Jude Waters, OP, the archdiocese's director of school planning. "It will clearly be a real shot in the arm for the schools to have the young people from Boston College join their faculty and, in return, it will be a valuable learning experience for the volunteers."

The program - the first of its kind to allow only certified graduates of an education program to participate - will give the graduates strong foundations for teaching careers during their two-year commitments. "Rather than sending 'want-to-be' teachers into the schools, we'll be sending people who are trained in education," said SOE Assistant Dean for Students Sr. Maryalyce Gilfeather, a planning committee member.

As Catholic schools face dwindling budgets, Sr. Gilfeather is hopeful that this program will be the answer to "many people's prayers in multiple ways.

"The principals, many of whom are already familiar with the quality of our students through student teaching placements, are ecstatic," she said. "They see it as an opportunity to train future leaders of Catholic schools."

Student enthusiasm is high as well, according to administrators. In addition to fulfilling their desire to perform some sort of volunteer work before launching their careers, participants in the program will be mentored by veteran teachers in Catholic schools and have their certification raised from "advanced professional" to "standard certification," making them more attractive to employers. Cooperating teachers from the site schools also will be eligible for re-certification through their participation in the program.

Volunteers will live in a faith community, enabling them to draw connections between their teaching, community life and faith in God, according to administrators. Monthly reflections and weekend retreats for volunteers are planned.

"In the past, [SOE] students interested in volunteering joined the Jesuit Volunteer Corps or the Peace Corps, for example, but now they have the option of fulfilling their commitment to volunteer while advancing their career at the same time," said Pine.

The summer 1997 introductory session will focus on the theological foundations of the program, with the aim of developing an understanding of the urban teaching context while provoking reflection, thought and planning on the mission of service through Catholic education. Another goal of the session will be to develop an understanding of the psychological, social and cultural dynamics of inner-city children and their families.

Liturgies and spiritual exercises also will be offered through the Institute of Religious Education and Pastoral Ministry and volunteers will begin a reflective journal, which they will maintain throughout the program.

According to Pine, a collaborative spirit has permeated this distinctive program, which is expected to improve Catholic education in Boston.

"We look forward to building this program, which honors and values both new and experienced teachers, recognizes the challenges and rewards of teaching in the inner city, and reflects the Jesuit passion for quality in service to others," he said.

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