All Perryville and beyond turns out to support St. Vincent
Talk about a feel-good story.
A small Catholic school program in a rural community vies in a nationwide contest with big-city schools for enough votes to win a $25,000 grant for its music program. The whole town gets involved. Everybody votes over and over for the Catholic school to win, but — out of 1,622 schools nationwide in the competition — the small Catholic school comes in fifth. And only four schools get the grant money.
The next day, an anonymous donor gives the school $25,000 for its music program.
It's not a made-for-TV movie. It's real, and it happened at St. Vincent High School in Perryville.
"This is a great community," said Bill Fischer, band director for St. Vincent High School, as well as the parish middle and elementary schools. "What happened here was just unbelievable."
Perryville is a town of about 8,000 people, the county seat of Perry County in Southeast Missouri. St. Vincent de Paul Parish, which has been serving the Catholics of Perryville since 1818, is a river town with strong German and French history. The parish has approximately 2,000 families; the parish high school has 176 students, the junior high about 90 students, the elementary school more than 330 students and the preschool has approximately 90 students.
"We're a small school in a small town," said Sister Marilyn Schneider, a Sister of the Most Precious Blood who is choir director of the schools and director of music ministry for St. Vincent de Paul Parish. The parish schools' music program also includes Jane Schnurbusch, elementary school music teacher, and Eric Seible, junior high music teacher
Last fall the music department for the parish schools learned about the Clorox company's Power A Bright Future competition, which gave schools the chance to win grants through the most online or texting votes — $50,000 for first place, and $25,000 for second, third and fourth place.
St. Vincent sent in a grant application, and the school and parish community spread the word. They reached out to businesses, other churches, other schools, the Chamber of Commerce, everyone they could think of to garner enough votes to win, with voting held from late October through mid December.
"We put up signs at St. Vincent, and other people, businesses, had signs too," urging people to vote, Schneider said. "Businesses were setting alarms to go off to remind people to vote for St. Vincent. People would call and tell me, 'I'm having people vote at 9 a.m.'"
Posters were made, as was a youtube video. "That was great fun and we felt it said something nice about our community and students," Fischer said.To view the video, go to youtube.com and type in "St. Vincent Promotional Clorox Video." put this in if you don't use the glance box
"The whole town was behind us," said Sister Marilyn."Everybody, the public schools, the Lutheran school, people in Cape Girardeau, our friends and relatives across the country."
Fischer said, "Everyone was promoting it. This is just one of those communities. I think everyone was just having fun with it. People were watching the vote tallies."
"At one point we were in second place," Sister Marilyn said.
The Clorox company announced the winners in January. "When the dust cleared, our small school in our small town was in fifth place," said Fischer. "And that was phenomenal. We were competing against big schools in big communities."
Even with the disappointment of not getting a grant, the school community felt good about the tremendous support it had received. Then Vincentian Father Milton Ryan, the parish pastor, announced the anonymous donation.
"I just went 'wow,'" said Fischer. "I think maybe whoever made the donation was inspired by what they saw the community do. Because this was a rare thing."
Sister Marilyn said, "It was really something."
The money will be put to good use, the music teachers said. The elementary school improvements include replacing an old computer, providing new interactive music programs and technology and three small practice keyboards. The choir and general music program will gain a computer, an LCD projector, new interactive music programs and technology and chairs and a piano for the choir students.
The band program, which serves grades five through 12, will replace several small pieces of percussion equipment and repair or replace some of the larger brass instruments, which are more than 40 years old. The door to the band room will be replaced with one big enough to get the kettle drum through.
One ardent band member, eighth-grader Joey Herzog, who was inspired by a fifth-grade teacher to play the saxophone, is looking forward to playing at the St. Vincent High School football games: "I like marching band music and to play along with music I download from the Internet."
Joey is carrying on a family tradition at St. Vincent. "I play the same saxophone my mother played when she was in school here. I'd like to pass my sax along to my children."
As the music educators said in an open letter to the Perryville community and the donor, "To quote an old commercial: Renovations — $5000. Technology — $5,000. Repair and replacement of old and worn out equipment — $15,000. To see the community pull together like this and inspire someone to donate the $25,000 — priceless. Perryville, you are awesome."
Watch the St. Vincent School's Promotional video they made on YouTUBE:
Click Podcast button below to hear the St. Vincent 2nd grade choristers sing Live on the Moon.
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