Campaign enhances discipline program at Catholic schools

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Holy Trinity School in St. Ann strives to meet its students' academic needs and develop their potential while calling them to be witnesses of the Gospel through their words and actions.

The process of developing problem-solving skills and leadership qualities is easier at the school thanks to the Virtue-Based Restorative Discipline program pioneered by the school the past six years after being developed for the archdiocese by educator Lynne Lang.

Holy Trinity received a grant from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development from funding from last year's collection in parishes. The grant enables its staff to receive professional development in restorative practices through the International Institute for Restorative Practices and to teach it to other schools. Teaching restorative practices encourages intercultural competence and is another step in breaking the cycle of poverty for students and their families.

Margaret Ahle, principal of Holy Trinity School, said restorative practices work well with her school community, in which about 80 percent of students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches under federal guidelines. "There's a little more trauma, extra stresses going on, and it's a great response to that," Ahle said. "It brings children back into connectedness to deal with the things they're going through in a real positive way, very much in the way Jesus would want us to do."

Many of the parents and younger children of Hispanic backgrounds are developing their English language skills, which adds to the stress level.

Restorative practices address the underlying social causes of bullying, help teachers analyze structures of discipline and create a just disciplinary policy that supports Catholic social teaching.

The approach has several themes:

• All people make mistakes and need an opportunity to make up for the harm done and return to full acceptance in a community.

• Everyone in a restorative system must commit to being positive.

• Virtue is the opposite/positive aspect of harm and needs to be taught and developed.

• Prayer must be a part of discipline in a Catholic environment.

"We couldn't do this and spread it to other areas, especially other schools working with adverse populations, without the funding," Ahle said. "It especially works with at-risk populations that have been through trauma and socio-economic pressures."

She cited instances on school playgrounds where two children have a conflict. Those students are brought together for a prayer and discussion about what happened. They are asked to identify a virtue they need to overcome the problem — gentleness or kindness, for example — as well as a plan on how they will make amends. Some want to go to confession, for example.

"They'll come up with something positive they can do to reinforce the relationship between each other. Perhaps they'll decide to sit next to each other at lunch and play a game," Ahle said.

The CCHD collection supports the work of groups that empower low-income people to participate in decisions that affect their lives and break the cycle of poverty. Many of the projects supported by CCHD embody the corporal works of mercy, including the protection of worker rights, expanding access to health care and reforming the criminal justice system. 

CCHD grant recipients

Besides the restorative practices and virtue education through Holy Trinity School in St. Ann, local grants funded by last year's collectgion from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development are:

Our Lady of Guadalupe School, in partnership with St. Cletus and Incarnate Word schools, brings together adults and children of various cultures, faiths and economic levels.

St. Francis Community Services Midtown Center (Midtown Men's Club) counteracts the stereotypes of black men by performing community service, mentoring troubled youth and meeting with aldermen to express concerns about their neighborhoods.

Beyond Housing (Healthy Communities) provides residents within the boundaries of the Normandy Schools Collaborative with education on nutrition and physical activity. It orchestrated the opening of the first new grocery store in the area in decades and continues to work to establish healthy habits.

LinkSTL (The Hyde Park Opportunity) connects neighbors in the Hyde Park community. More than 50 percent of the residents live below the poverty line and need help with resources such as second-chance banking, financial education and coaching, quality housing and small business development assistance.

Institute for Peace and Justice (Solving Our Situations (SOS) provides learning experiences, advocacy and resources regarding alternatives to violence. SOS is an effort of the Institute and the Center for Women in Transition, which works to reintegrate women who are ex-offenders into society.

Latinos en Axion (LEA) organizes Latino immigrants in the St. Louis region to address punitive state-level immigration bills, comprehensive immigration reform at the national level, and issues such as racial profiling on the local level.

National Grants:

1. Metropolitan Congregations United (MCU) series of dialogues and workshops are designed to break down barriers between African Americans and whites and, within the context of faith and values, lead them to political advocacy and action to decrease racial disparity in the region.

2. Voices of Women (VOW) provides alternative options to traditional banking, housing and food access while empowering women through leadership training.

3. Coalition for Truth in Independence (CTI) works on systemic change to ensure that people with disabilities are treated fairly and given the resources to thrive in the most integrated setting.

4. Latinos en Axion (LEA) (see above).

5. The Sweet Potato Project provides youth with a summer job in which they learn horticulture, marketing, branding, product development, social media and other entrepreneurial skills. 

CCHD collection, Nov. 19-20

The annual collection for the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) will be held in parishes the weekend of Nov. 19-20, on the Solemnity of Christ the King and the close of the Jubilee Year of Mercy.

The domestic anti-poverty program of the U.S. Catholic Bishops is dedicated to breaking the cycle of poverty by funding community programs that empower low-income people to find solutions to problems that impact their lives, families and communities.

An estimated 43 million people live in poverty in the United States. According to the Working Poor Families Project, 32 percent of working poor families in Missouri have incomes that are 200 percent below the poverty level.

This national collection is the primary source of funding for the CCHD's anti-poverty grants and education programs aimed at fostering a culture of life and hope in communities across the nation. Twenty-five percent of funds collected remain in each diocese to support local projects. 

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