Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of April 23, 2007
St. Bernadette's spirit thrives in her namesake school
For 50 years this Beverly community school has woven itself into the fabric of the neighbourhood
By RAMON GONZALEZ
Because it's a small school, we are like a close-knit family."
- Melanie Mazurek
Close to 250 people, including students, parents, district officials, as well as present and past staff, attended the afternoon ceremonies in the gym.
Father Patrick Baska of St. Alphonsus Parish led religious services during the celebration.
"We are celebrating 50 years of learning," declared principal Melanie Mazurek, who stressed St. Bernadette is built on pillars such as spirituality, humanness, sacramentality, justice and tradition. "All of these values truly have been the core to this school."
She described the connection between students, parents and staff as unique and said everyone who enters St. Bernadette's feel a sense of belonging. "There is a true sense of hospitality and warmth at our school. Because it's a small school, we are like a close-knit family."
Mazurek said the school at 11917-40 St. is much like its namesake.
"We are like St. Bernadette because St. Bernadette was a visionary and a messenger and we too envision for our students that they will use their God-given talents and pursue their goals and dreams very much like St. Bernadette did.
"And we are truly messengers of God, we are like his hands and feet, and that's reflected in our words and in our actions to one another."
Acclaimed for its hexagonal shape and individual heating in each of its 10 classrooms, the opening of St. Bernadette was greeted with excitement in the community. The board hoped to have the school ready for September 1956, but time was tight and classes did not begin until March 1957.
Built on a thrifty budget of $193,000 plus land costs, there wasn't enough money for adornments like a fancy metal sign. So when a contractor wanted $25 a letter to make the school sign in metal, long time Beverly resident Fred Nash came to the rescue.
"This is a small school with a big heart."
- Melanie Mazurek
Picking up plywood scraps from the construction site, Nash cut out the letters with a fretsaw, sawed a broom handle into one-inch lengths for mounting studs and crafted the school's sign, which adorned the front entrance for many years.
"St. Bernadette is all about community," said Dombroski. "This school has always encouraged community involvement."
In the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s the school was the centre for a clothing depot, which accepted clean clothes and donated them to needy families.
Men's clothing was sent to the Marian Centre while the rest was kept at the school for distribution to the needy in the area.
At that time there was no Catholic community centre in the area, so the school was used as one by many community groups, including the Catholic Women's League and the Busy Housewives Association.
There was also a daycare at St. Bernadette for many years.
Today, the school offers a daily snack program for its students, collects non-perishable items for school families that need help, does fundraising for the Edmonton Food Bank and raises money for cancer research through the Terry Fox Campaign.
"This is a small school with a big heart," quipped Mazurek.
But the school receives as much as it gives. Every winter the residents of the seniors' home close by knit all sorts of colourful and warm mitts and hats and scarves for the students.
For all its activity and community involvement St. Bernadette was on the verge of closing in 1990, when enrollment dipped to 84 students.
But things improved and the school was spared only to fall into the same situation two years ago when it was again slated for closure due to low enrollment.
But Mazurek said she recently received assurances from the district that St. Bernadette will remain open.
"Things are improving," she said. "A lot of young families are moving into the area, so our numbers are going up."
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