LAKE WORTH | Sacred Heart School students stood side by side on the sports field 10 years ago, when America was experiencing the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, and the school was struggling and support was down.
Last month, the children took to the field again, but this time the visual created was on a bright and joyful note.
The student body took a designated spot creating a giant number seven and a big number five signifying the school’s more than seven decades of service to the community and academic excellence.
“We are celebrating our 75th anniversary,” said Taylor Burton, who helped direct the students as they came marching onto the field wearing red, white and black uniforms.
Burton is an assistant teacher who is among the 30 other staff members at Sacred Heart. This year the school celebrates a full enrollment, with prospective students on waiting lists. Before classes began this year, Sacred Heart completed renovations, additions and upgrades inside and out, and everything is moving along smoothly.
Burton reflected back 10 years ago when she was a student at her beloved Sacred Heart. Beginning there in Pre-k, she was 13 and in the seventh grade during the 2008-2009 school year when Sacred Heart School was struggling and reached out for help .
At that time the students went on the field and created a fundraising video and posted it on YouTube. It received thousands of hits, along with contributions, including those from local donors. Individuals who have been touched by the charming little school that serves children from low-income households showed their own continued support for Sacred Heart’s goal — to provide students with a top-notch, challenging academic curriculum in a “nurturing, spiritual and compassionate Catholic environment,” according to school leaders.
Burton said she is grateful that she is back at school and part of the close-knit community as it celebrates 75 years. She is excited about the agenda of events planned to mark the anniversary. The first event is a “Dinner Dance From the Heart” Feb. 23, 2019, taking place in school facilities.
“Being a part of the staff, I feel like I am giving back to the school that made me who I am today,” said Burton. “When we were on the field (last month for the photo), I took a moment and stepped back to take in the moment.”
The administration has continued through the years with even a stronger commitment to children, establishing a reputation of excellence in education and outreach and assistance to the less fortunate children of the area. School administrators and faculty and staff are also steadfast in mission.
The school mission statement captures what Sacred Heart is all about: “As a faith community enthroned in the Sacred Heart of Jesus, our mission is to provide all of our students of diverse cultures and abilities an education of excellence in a Christ-centered environment, encourage them to live the Gospel values and prepare them for success in higher education and life.”
Candice Tamposi, principal of the school for 16 years has led the school through the storms and now guides it through smoother waters and successful times.
“Our academic curriculum is challenging and builds a firm foundation for our students. We offer our students a full physical education program with opportunities to participate in interscholastic sports. In addition, we foster talent in both the fine and performing arts-visual, music and drama. Our overall objective is to educate the whole child, spiritually, emotionally and intellectually, in preparation for their future.”
This year, school enrollment is 235. The classes are kept small since the school features a wide variety of teaching techniques and lesson adaptions that educators use to instruct the diverse group of students with diverse learning needs.
Amongst the student body, 80 percent of the students are African-American or Haitian-American, 15 percent are Hispanic and five percent are Anglo-American according to Camposi, who added that 93 percent of the students are on scholarships. The school provides an array of scholarship opportunities.
“Most (student families) are at poverty level,” Camposi said.
According to Sue Tiller, school finance officer and director of the school kitchen operations, the school’s National School Lunch Program keeps bodies strong and healthy and provides 400 meals a day. Through the national lunch program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service, Sacred Heart features free breakfast, lunch and snacks, and the meals are healthy, nutritious and made with organic ingrediencies.
The wide assortment of food items served up is also a learning experience for the youngsters, according to Tiller, who said many of the students have not ventured beyond sugary drinks, cereals loaded with sugar and fast foods with preservatives, fat and calories.
“The kids are opening up to new foods,” she said. “We are opening them up to eating healthy. We want to stop childhood obesity.”
The new food program is just one of the new developments at the school. Generous school supporter Dorothy Conty Finnegan helped Sacred Heart renovate the old Madonna Hall, at the heart of school activities. With a recent facelift, the hall looks new.
The school also made upgrades to computers and is now using Apple technology. The students are using an array of Apple programs including iBooks, iMovie and Keynote. The multimedia center has undergone a complete renovation and now features a stage, sound and light and laser system, along with new furniture and air-conditioning unit. The school kitchen is also remodeled and upgraded.