Grant Spotlights: Marian Middle School

Each year, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet award funds to organizations and projects that serve the economically poor in the St. Louis area through the Tabitha Grants program.  The program has supported many local organizations that are acquainted with a CSJ sister or associate and consistent with CSJ values.

In this grant spotlight, we feature Marian Middle School, a 2017 recipient of a Tabitha Grant, funding a middle school for girls of all different races, ethnicities, and religions.

By Abby Blaes, Communications intern

Marian Middle School, a Catholic school serving adolescent girls of all religious, racial, and ethnic backgrounds, is committed to breaking the cycle of poverty by fostering their spiritual, academic, social, moral, emotional, and physical development in preparation for and successful completion of college preparatory high schools.  Marian Middle School is small by design, capping total enrollment at 75 students.  However, in supporting their high school and college students, at any time, Marian supports 240 individuals.  Marian Middle School was awarded Tabitha Grant Funds in 2017.  Sister Sarah Heger, CSJ, principal at Marian Middle School, answers some questions about the school and how the Tabitha Grant is being used.

Q: How has the grant money you received been used or how will it be used?

S. Sarah Heger: Marian has received grants during various cycles in its 17 year history.  Recently grant money has gone towards paying for counseling for students and families in need of support.  This past year the grant money helped the school pay for opportunities to learn about sustainability and the value of nature they would not otherwise be able to experience. 

Q: How have the people you’ve served responded to your organization and your programs?

SH: Our goal is to offer students with high potential but economic barriers the chance for a high quality education and support from middle school through career success.  Our graduation rate is phenomenal.  This past year, in a class of 16 high school seniors, three graduated a year early and two of the remaining 13 were salutatorians of their classes.  The girls grow in confidence academically and personally.  In an end-of-the-year survey, 95% of 8th graders were confident they could make a difference in the world.  I have no doubt they will.

Q: As you stated, at graduation, 95% of 8th graders were confident they could make a difference in the world.  How do you feel this mind-set has an effect on a young student's self-esteem and success in the future?

SH: Knowing that they can make a difference in the world gives students a sense of purpose and hope that drives them to achieve and be all they are created to be.  These are not students who are just receiving, but are giving as well.

 Q: How has your organization grown over the years and how is it growing today?

SH: We have built a solid middle school base of academic and social support.  We have a solid graduate support program with staff members who follow and support students in high school and college and into their career path.  We are innovative leaders in education who change the lives of our students and families.  We continue to hone what we do while staying in tuned with the path of educational leadership.

Q: Can you explain the graduate support program a little more?  That seems to be a very unique program to Marian Middle School.

SH: Our goal is to break the cycle of poverty through education.  We know that cannot be done with an 8th grade education.  So, we continue to support our students in high school, post-secondary education, and into the work world.  We have staff members who visit with students, speak with them about grades, needs, extracurriculars, make sure they are prepared for the ACT, help fill out FAFSA forms, send care packages, etc.  If students can keep a 2.5 GPA in middle school and have decent discipline and attendance records, we also offer financial support for students who choose to attend private high schools.  About 75% of Marian students attend private, faith-based high schools.

Q: Why do you feel your organization is important in today’s society?

SH: We are a welcoming environment working for systemic change and change for individuals who face discrimination and bias daily.  It is a place where differences collide in exchanges calling all to growth and learning.  We are not only about academics, but holistic growth and relationship building.

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