Sister Katie Flannagan, Sister of St. John Bosco, shares her enthusiasm with a student during a rally at St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples.

Leadership program inspires Neumann students

Naples | When Sister Patricia Roche, Salesian Sisters of St. John Bosco, first told the student body about the House Program (a modified form of student government), many of us knew in our hearts it would be a success. From that first discussion, it was clear that the goal was to make students feel supported even in a competitive atmosphere, fostering and strengthening the spirit that is distinct to St. John Neumann Catholic High School.

It began with the creation of four distinct Houses, each of them named after inspirational figures who exemplify God’s mission and love: St. Francis de Sales, St. Mary Mazzarello, teacher Shelley Raley, and missionary Sean Devereux. St. Francis de Sales inspired Don Bosco’s name for his youth movement known as the Salesians while St. Mazzarello was a subsequent founder of the Salesian sisters.

We also honor Devereux, a prominent Salesian missionary in Africa who worked with children until the end of his life, and of course Raley, a beloved Religion teacher at Neumann who had only compassion and joy in her heart. We endow our houses with their names as they gifted us with their exceptional examples.

But Houses are nothing without students to fill them. During the House Retreat held the first week of school, students were sorted randomly into one of the four. We played ice breakers, came up with mascots and chants for our houses, and had a volleyball match that became heated. Nearly everything is a competition, and there are many opportunities for the Houses to earn points, such as math or geography competitions during morning announcements, attending sporting events and music concerts, and displaying actions that go above and beyond, all in the support of others. The House Program encourages students to be active in all aspects of Neumann, emphasizing the importance of school pride and spirit.

The main goal of the House Program, according to House Coordinator Sarah McFee, is to “keep making a stronger community, to make it known that there’s spirit and love in everything we do at Neumann. We want to create opportunities to enjoy and compete with your fellow Celtics while also fostering schoolwide unity.”

Many juniors and seniors have commented on how the House Program has transformed the landscape of Neumann, bringing enthusiasm to all occasions, including the first home football game of the season. “(I) could really feel that the school was unified when we got our first touchdown,” said Lexi Moody, Raley House Co-Captain. “The crowd was big, everybody cheered and just radiated so much energy. Everyone was proud to be a part of Neumann.”

While its effects have been immediate, its legacy will be lasting. The House Program has the potential to usher in positive change and generate true connection within the student body and the faculty. Some adjustments take time to get used to, but the elected House leaders have been stepping up to generate the enthusiasm and camaraderie that are essential to the system’s success.

“I expect a lot of myself and of the other captains,” said senior Alex Myrin, Raley House Co-Captain. “The examples we set and the work that we do as the first leaders of the program are going to impact everyone in the school, hopefully for years to come. We’ve got a great collection of people, and if we keep working at it, we can be the start of something really great that will change Neumann for a long time to come.”

Hannah is a senior at St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples. Neumann English teacher Brian Carufe assisted in the editing of the story.