The following column runs in the current edition of The Capistrano Dispatch.
By Frank Talarico
CEO of JSerra Catholic High School
JSerra Catholic High School’s list of accomplishments continues to grow.
This year alone, we graduated our first National Merit Scholar, earned our first Trinity League sports championships and will send all 176 members of the Class of 2009 to college.
But there’s another achievement that hasn’t generated as many headlines – our contributions to the San Juan Capistrano community.
One of JSerra’s key founding principles is to give more to the community than it takes.
I’m proud of our local community service record. But that doesn’t mean we can’t strive to do more. We do. And we will.
One way is through our new JSerra Community Relations Committee. We recently invited an accomplished cross-section of community leaders to join us. I’m thrilled to report that representatives from the J.F. Shea Therapeutic Riding Center, Mission Basilica and the surrounding community have agreed to assist.
JSerra board member, parent and San Juan resident Kevin Baldridge will chair the committee. He told me he looks forward to finding creative new ways for us to contribute.
“I believe we can add additional value to the community by working together to identify new opportunities for us to help make San Juan Capistrano a better place,” Baldridge said. “JSerra is already a positive influence. And San Juan is already an outstanding community. But there’s always room for improvement.”
Below are some recent examples of how JSerra is making a difference close to home.
Compared by some to an Ivy League university, JSerra’s $110-million campus serves as an important venue for community organizations to host their events. In the past year, 26 local sports leagues used our football, baseball, soccer and other athletic facilities. Also, burgeoning local churches of different faiths used our campus for a variety of events geared toward growing their congregations.
Our accomplished class of 2009 dedicated more than 15,000 hours of community service supporting local soup kitchens, building homes through Habitat for Humanity and mentoring younger children through Big Brothers and Big Sisters of America.
JSerra awarded more than $3 million in financial aid, helping 100 San Juan families who otherwise wouldn’t be able to send their children to our school.
Our board members and parents donated millions of dollars to the Shea Center, Mission Preservation Society and other local charitable organizations.
Many of our top students participated as tutors to CREER: Comunidad y Familia underclassmen. The program, headed voluntarily by JSerra science teacher Betty Cappelletti, was such a success that there’s expansion talk. Our students built lasting friendships and helped the CREER students improve their grades.
Of course, the most important thing we do is develop future community leaders. I often say that we’re not only preparing our students for college; we’re preparing them for what they will become after college.
Co-valedictorian Lexi Crommett, our first National Merit Scholar, hopes to cure Alzheimer’s Disease. Our other co-valedictorian, Nicole Madro, isn’t sure where her liberal arts studies will lead her. Wherever it is, she says she hopes to use her academic skills to make the world a better place.
Stories of community service ambitions abound on our campus. As an institution, we are committed to leading by example.
Of course, we won’t only rely on school administrators and community volunteers.
We welcome everybody’s input.
With that in mind, we’ve set up a new “community hotline.” If you have any ideas about how we can do a better job, please contact us.