In St. Martha Catholic School’s mission statement, the goal is to “provide for their children a quality education, presented in the context of Catholic values.” That mission statement is more than just something written on paper.
Being the only Catholic school within Meridian Township’s borderlines, St. Martha, which goes from Pre-School to the eighth grade, takes pride in making using a faith-based educational curriculum to educate its small student population.
With the girls dressed in dark plaid skirts and jumpers with white blouses and the boys in navy blue plants and white dress shirts, covered by v-neck sweaters, St. Martha’s is the image of a Catholic school. However, it is more than an image.
St. Martha has longer school days than public schools, from 8:00 am to 3:30 pm, longer school years, has low student-teacher ratios and students usually rank in the top 10th and 20th percentile nationally in the Stanford Achievement Test.
Unlike its public school counterparts, there is school-wide Mass every Thursday morning. The students have longer school years and school days, from 8:00-3:30 pm.
But according to Francie Herring, principal of St. Martha, the parents are the most influential in the students’ academic success. Parents are strongly encouraged to give 10 hours of their time to volunteer at the school.
“Parent involvement is absolutely important,” said Herring. “We could not do what we do without them. They plan activities like the Mileage Club, which allows kids to run and get physically fit, auctions and field trips.”
St. Martha School was founded in the fall of 1998 and since then, has produced hundreds of bright students. Currently, the school, which goes from Pre-School to eighth grade, has 165 students enrolled.
While Catholicism is taught, St. Martha is open to all students, regardless of religious denominations.
“The number of students who are non-Catholic is something under 10 percent,” said Herring. “That’s kind of surprising, but I think it’s because of the high tax-base around here and plus, the public schools here are really good.”
However, parents choose to send their children to Catholic/faith-based schools because they offer something the public schools lack, according to Danielle Casavant, President and CEO of the Greater Lansing Catholic Education Foundation.
“It’s a very personable decision why parents send their kids to faith-based schools over public schools,” said Casavant. “But the way these schools are structured is appealing to parents.”
The Greater Lansing Catholic Education Foundation is a non-profit organization that financially supports students who attend the 15 Catholic Schools within the Lansing area, including St. Martha.
“Our purpose is to provide need-based money for students and their tuition,” said Casavant. “The money comes from private fundraisers from private donors.”
Like the other schools in the organization, St. Martha’s uses Catholic ideologies and teachings in the school curriculum, not just in the religion classes. The school offers fine arts programs, including a Drama Club for the middle school students, cultural studies, and Spanish classes among other things.
Majority of the students who complete the eighth grade, go to other Catholic schools, especially Catholic Central in Lansing.
“Very few go on to public schools once in high school,” said Herring. “Most go to Lansing Catholic.”
Yet, until they reach those high school years, Herring and the rest of St. Martha’s staff is focused on developing students’ minds now.
“Our school has been extremely successful because of the faith-based curriculum,” said Herring. “We’re exposing children to Catholic values and traditions, teaching morality and that’s what most parents want for their kids.”