Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of October 20, 2003
Bosco's spirit walks school's halls
Lake District school focuses on reason, religion and kindness
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
When principal Louise Ripley helped design St. John Bosco School, she always had the saint in mind.
And it shows. As soon as students enter the school, they step into a circular reflection area whose focal point is a brightly lit waterfall of Tyndall stone with a cross in the centre.
The waterfall is bordered by two-stained glass works that depict, in cartoon-like form, six stages in the life of St. John Bosco, the patron saint of youth. In one, he is portrayed as a juggler, an activity he was known for in his early days. In another, he is depicted doing magic tricks, which he later used to attract youth.
Beside the waterfall and the stained glass art, is a short biography of the saint in bronze. In the central office, a large portrait of St. John Bosco welcomes students and visitors.
“The philosophy of St. John Bosco School will flow from the teachings of our patron saint,” vows a pamphlet introducing the school. “He wanted youth to be taught in an atmosphere of reason, religion and kindness.”
And that’s the atmosphere prevalent at the school today, said Ripley, who, for two years, was part of a team that discussed what a school named after St. John Bosco would look like. “Like our patron saint, we try to do what’s best to help children to learn and to experience God,” she said. “We place an emphasis on the education of the whole child.”
Located at 7411-161A Ave. in the Lake District of northeast Edmonton, St. John Bosco Elementary opened with 360 students when classes started Sept. 2. During the first week, students learned about the life and times of their patron saint.
Archbishop Thomas Collins will again encourage students and staff to follow in the saints’ footsteps when he blesses the $5.1-million school on Oct. 23 at 4 p.m.
The school’s theme is Celebrating God and Youth and its symbol is a butterfly, which itself is a symbol of new beginnings. St. John Bosco School is the first Catholic school in the Lake District and thus represents new beginnings not only for students and staff but also for the communities its serves, Ripley noted.
St. John Bosco is designed to have all of its classrooms open onto a central core for student learning. The central core is made up of the music room and a large and brightly lit learning resource centre with a full computer lab, library and “learning nooks” to allow children to access all these areas within just a few step from their classrooms.
Judy Cseresnyes, a mother of two St. John Bosco students, was impressed with the new school. “It’s spacious, clean and bright,” she noted. “I like the fact one can see all of the classrooms from the library.” She also likes the fact she can stand in front of any classroom and see what’s going on inside by peeking through the classroom’s large windows.
Best of all, “teachers have an open-door policy and you can talk to them any time you want,” noted Cseresnyes, who was at the school Oct. 10 attending St. John Bosco’s Thanksgiving celebration.
The only downfall Cseresnyes sees is the school location, which she blames on poor city planning. “There is no easy access to it, no main road to get to it,” she observed. “You have to drive around a lot to get to it.”
Banquet of programs
As well as quality-based Catholic education, St. John Bosco offers a variety of programs such as a gifted, talented and enrichment program, an English as a second language program, a reading recovery/balanced literacy programs, and a kindergarten to Grade 6 music program taught by a music specialist. Extracurricular activities offered at St. John Bosco include choral choirs, a handbell choir, an art club, concerts, athletic teams and a scrapbook club.
Teacher Tracy Sauer, the reading recovery specialist, said students who have reading problems are immediately placed in the recovery program to help them be successful in the regular classroom. “We follow the example of St. John Bosco who dedicated his life to help young people. He is our role-model,” she said.
Sauer, one of 25 staff and teachers at St. John Bosco, likes the school design. “I like the open school concept,” she said. “It makes you feel part of the community.”
Grade 5 student Joseph Robalo, 10, likes everything about the school. “I like the teachers, the huge gym and the library,” he said. “And I think our patron saint was a cool guy. He used to juggle and do magic tricks.” Best of all, Robalo, who lives in Cherry Grove, can now walk to school. A few months ago, he had to take a bus to St. Phillip School.
Grade 4 student Francesca Gallace, 9, is also from Cherry Grove and likes to be able to walk to school every morning with her friends. She has nothing against her former school, but said St. John Bosco is a lot prettier. “I like the look of it.”
School secretary Rita Raimundo left her position as secretary at St. Timothy’s to come to St. John Bosco. “I still think I’m in a dream,” she said. “This school is beautiful, very inviting and welcoming. It’s very spiritual as soon as you walk in.”
Patron saint's mission
But it is St. John Bosco and his mission that makes the school unique, Raimundo said. “His mission was to work with youth so we’re obviously here to fill that bill. And I think we are doing it through caring, understanding and compassion.”
Teacher Leslie Zydek agreed, saying the staff is filled with the spirit of St. John Bosco and fully committed to carrying out his mission.
John Bosco was born in 1815 in Recchi, Italy. Poverty and a lack of formal education did not stop John's growth as a person and he became the town's respected acrobat and juggler. Many would assemble to witness his tricks and before each performance, he would ask his audience to join him in prayer.
God was his friend. This friendship became so powerful John was ordained a priest in 1841 at the age of 26.
While in Turin, he taught night classes, heard Confessions and celebrated the Eucharist, and provided food, shelter, education and training for the young offenders of his time. He also taught catechism to orphans and apprentices and for a time served as chaplain in a hospice for girls. He also wrote short treatises aimed at explaining the faith to children then taught children how to print them. He died in 1888, at the age of 72. His work lives on in the Salesian order he founded.