Holy Family Girls’ Basketball Goes Up Tempo Under New Coach Adrian Turner

Holy Family Fire Girls’ Basketball Burning for a State Championship

Having just finished the final exhausting drill, Fire Girls’ Basketball Head Coach Adrian Turner signaled practice was over. How did the players react? They broke out into a raucous round of clapping. It’s a daily celebration of the hard work the team put in that day and what’s to come tomorrow.

Photo by Kemmetmueller Photography

It’s one of many new traditions Turner has brought to the program in his first year at the helm. During a season filled with success, the celebration doesn’t end with practice.

The Fire, ranked No. 5 in Class 2A, is aiming for its first state championship in program history. The team has reason to be optimistic. They won a share of the Wright County Conference championship, a Holy Family girl’s basketball first.

“Coming in from Day 1, the talk was state. We’ve embraced it,” Turner says about the team that just finished the regular season 20-5. “We haven’t run from the expectation. We knew what we had coming back. We knew where the program has been the last couple of years. And it was like, ‘What are we going to do to get to that next level?’”

Picking Up the Pace

Hiring Turner was the first step to that goal. He replaced Head Coach Ellen Thompson, who cemented her place in Holy Family history when she took the team to the State Tournament in 2016.  With the tradition of winning now established, Turner has brought a more up-tempo style of play.

“It definitely was a little tough at first because the style of play was a lot different,” says senior Julia Geurs, one of the team’s three captains. “I feel like our big thing last year was structure, structure, structure. This year we’ve tried to transition into more of a faster pace and getting up and down the floor as quick as we can.”

The result? Many more points in transition, in part sparked by an aggressive defense.

Senior Grace Conroy drives to the hoop. Photo by Rich Fink

“Last year we focused on fundamental defense,” senior captain Grace Conroy recalls, “and with steals, it was more of, ‘You’ve got to be very confident that you’re going to get that steal.’ This year it’s always go for the steal, and that’s made the biggest difference.”

Having an experienced senior team doesn’t hurt, either. The Fire’s seniors have played together since eighth grade and the team has reached the section finals each of the last two seasons and the state tournament the year before that.

This season includes a perfect 12-0 mark at home and win streaks of eight and 12 games.

Amid all the winning, though, came two difficult stretches:

  • The Fire lost its first two games to open the season – against Hill-Murray and DeLaSalle, both which now rank in the top 10 of Class 3A.
  • January brought a tough stretch of consecutive conference losses at Hutchinson and New Prague. In that stretch, junior guard and key contributor Grace Elander broke her nose and missed the New Prague game.

Turner said the season-opening losses were eye-opening. He expedited implementing his system, which included an aggressive trap defense. The other side of it was learning more about his players’ skills and using those to exploit opponent weaknesses.

“I thought we’d have some more hard knocks,” Turner shares. “Really, the reason we’ve avoided them is that the girls are just really good at adjustments. And their leadership is outstanding.”

Building Future Leaders

Turner didn’t have to move far when he accepted the Holy Family head coach role. He was the assistant girls’ basketball coach at Chanhassen High School, where he was named the 2014 Section 2AAAA Assistant Coach of the Year.

When Turner learned about Holy Family’s Convocation, the daily student-led event where the entire school gathers in the gym, he was all in.

“That’s building strong leadership in these kids,” Turner says. “That’s something that I cherish and enjoy—being involved with people who are leaders. You can get a lot of things done with folks who know how to lead.”

 That’s a trait Activities Director Nick Tibesar recognized in Turner as he interviewed for the position.

“It’s really important for us when we’re looking for people that they understand the balance between being a high school coach and the opportunity to have a transformational impact on young people’s lives,” Tibesar says. “It’s not just about winning games. It’s about changing lives and inspiring and empowering young people.”

Faith On Fire

Being a man of faith didn’t hurt Turner’s candidacy either. While playing baseball at Grambling State University, which is a public institution, Turner shared his coach-implemented chapel services, which helped bring his team together. That’s something he’s now implemented with the Fire.

“That’s been a fun thing for us,” Turner says of “Chapel,” which includes singing and scripture. “A lot of messages get introduced to the girls to try to set a tone going into our weekend or our next games.”

Tibesar says this team tradition is a “phenomenal” addition to the program.

“It’s no surprise when you go take those extra steps to build strong bonds between coaches and players and between players and players that it translates to positive results on the court,” says Tibesar.

Turner also impressed Tibesar by organizing an alumni night early in the season.

“It really helps to further the message to our kids that you’re not just here to help us win games right now,” Tibesar says. “It’s not just a four-year transactional relationship. We’re trying to build relationships for a lifetime, and we hope that you want to come back and cheer on the team and maybe even send your kids to Holy Family someday.”

And someday, Leigh Steiner hopes she can return to Holy Family, look up and see a 2019 girl’s basketball state championship banner hanging from the rafters.

“I feel like we knew we’d be really good this season,” says Steiner, a senior captain. “But the fact that it’s actually happening and that we’re ranked and we’re doing so well just kind of made us all realize that those dreams we had are coming true.”

Update: Holy Family Girls Basketball won the Section 5AA Championship, earning a trip to the MSHSL Class AA State Tournament. The team was defeated in the quarter final round and moved on to the Consolation Bracket. The girls defeated St. Peter in OT to move on to the Consolation Championship at 2 p.m. on Friday, March 14.  A tweet by Coach Turners says it all, “One of our goals as a team was to never give up. We have met that goal every step of the way!”

Holy Family Girls Basketball Weekly Chapel from Holy Family Catholic High School on Vimeo.

About the Writer: Mike Nelson graduated from Holy Family in 2008. He is an editor and writer at the Star Tribune in Minneapolis. Since graduating from Marquette University with a degree in journalism, he has also written for Bleacher Report, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and MLB.com. Nelson lives in Burnsville with his wife, Kim.

Behind the Scenes: Girls’ Hockey

Holy Family Girls’ Hockey Is Fire on Ice!

At a recent Friday morning Convo, a daily event where Holy Family students gather as “family” in the school gym, everything was going as planned. First daily prayers, followed by the Pledge of Allegiance. And then, the customary rundown of upcoming weekend sports events.

Boys’ basketball at Breck. Girls’ basketball at Hutchinson. Girls’ hockey—the Fire vs. the Wildcats at the Waconia City Ice Arena. The immediate reaction to the last announcement: applause and a few enthusiastic cheers.

And so a new and very natural rivalry has formed. For 11 years (2007-2018), Waconia and Holy Family girls’ hockey players suited up in the same locker room, sharing jerseys that reflected the 50/50 split of a co-op team called the Wildfire—a combination of Waconia’s “Wildcats” nickname and Holy Family’s “Fire.” Now, each school has returned to its respective team names, shedding the complexities of juggling a program to fit both schools.

Holy Family Activities Director Nick Tibesar says the former co-op team was naturally working against how the two schools were wired as fellow Wright County Conference members. He knew coming to Holy Family in 2016 that it was a matter of “when,” not “if,” the change would come to girls’ hockey.

“There was some natural rivalry already with Holy Family and Waconia, just being neighboring schools in the same conference,” Tibesar says. “We’re rivals all year long in every other sport, but for girls’ hockey, we expected them to share a locker room. ”

So in 2017, Holy Family and Waconia agreed to end their co-op girls’ hockey team, with the 2018-19 season marking the beginning of a new era with two independent teams.

“The reality of it was we knew we were going in that direction,” Tibesar adds. “If you’d asked me when I started three years ago, ‘Are we going to be looking to dissolve this co-op?’ I probably would have said, ‘Yeah, it’d probably be better if we can do it sooner than later.’

 “What they want for their program is the same thing we want for ours: They want to be able to do it their way, have it align with their activities office and their school and their culture,” Tibesar says. “We want the same thing.”

Transition to a New Order

With the co-op over, Holy Family has implemented a plan to stand on its own in the competitive world of girls’ high school hockey. Even before the season began, coach Randy Koeppl decided every skater would play at least one period in a junior varsity game. That made it easier to schedule opponents looking to build their own programs through JV competition.

Fifteen games into the Fire’s inaugural season, Koeppl is proud his plan is working, with all 23 skaters (excluding three goalies) having played JV this season.

“In a normal situation, you’d have 28 skaters on a varsity team,” says Koeppl, who hopes to field 30 to 32 players next year. “Maybe two or three would overlap (between varsity and JV). When I talked to the girls and their families before this season, I said, ‘This is how we’re going to do it.’ I said everybody is going to have to chip in and there aren’t going to be any egos.”

The plan worked. Sure, there were some hurdles to overcome. For instance, many Holy Family players live in Waconia, and for them it meant lining up on the opposite side of the ice from teammates they played with for years.

“It was a big surprise to me because I played with those girls my whole life,” says junior captain Lauren Hickey, who transferred from Waconia High School to Holy Family her freshman year.

“It’s hard, but I think it’s better for both of us because it makes us one team from one school,” adds sophomore Sadie Long, who’s also from Waconia.

Junior captain Caitlin Rock heard rumblings that the co-op would end, but that still didn’t make it any easier to handle the news.

“I was kind of shocked,” she admits. “We didn’t know what was going to come out of it. It’s been going on for a while and then it finally happened.”

Eventually, the excitement of representing Holy Family as Fire girls’ hockey began to set in. After all, the Fire boys’ hockey program has become a legitimate force in Minnesota high school hockey. The belief is that Holy Family girls’ hockey could and should do the same.

Sophomore goalie Alex Pellicci recalled, “I think everyone got a lot more excited and realized how good this was going to be for our program and how much growth we were going to have.” Photo by Graham Miller

“As the summer went on,” sophomore goalie Alex Pellicci recalled, “I think everyone got a lot more excited and realized how good this was going to be for our program and how much growth we were going to have.”

Quick Results Built on Youth

The early results reflect players and parents are buying into Koeppl’s vision. He brings 15 years of coaching high school and club hockey to the program. With a roster featuring no seniors and just three juniors, the Fire roster is young but competitive. At 12-3-2, Holy Family finds itself as roughly a top-20 Class AA team, according to Koeppl. (Update: The Fire finished the regular season with a 16-6-3 record and seeded #5 in the very competitive Class 2A, Section 2. They play #4-seed Shakopee Sabers at Shakopee on Friday, February 8, at 7 p.m. at Shakopee Arena.)

“They can see our talent level,” says Koeppl, who played at the University of Minnesota. “It’s always easier when you’re winning. If we’re sitting here 0-12, it’s a different story.”

Plus, there is a certain satisfaction that comes with recording a number of program firsts, he says. It’s something no other Holy Family girls’ hockey team will have a chance to experience.

“It’s not often you get to do something for the first time: the first goal, the first win, the first shutout, the first penalty. This is stuff that people are going to remember,” Koeppl says. “You’re going to look back and say, ‘Jeez, their first year they were that good?’ ”

Photo by Graham Miller ’21

And then there is the natural chemistry surrounding this team. Success doesn’t hinge solely on wins and losses. It goes deeper.

“When I talk to these kids, I keep it to under 5 minutes because usually they’re just goofing around or they’re laughing at each other, making faces at each other; they’re having fun,” Koeppl says. “But they understand when it’s time to be serious. They have those personalities where they like each other, which is huge.”

Ultimately, that results in more time together beyond scheduled games, practices and in the locker room. It leads to friendships built on:

  • Study groups after school
  • A Secret Santa gift exchange
  • Pond-hockey games
  • Volunteering as a team at Feed My Starving Children
  • Weekly pasta dinners after Monday practices

“Being at a different schools, you could feel it in the locker room,” says Pellicci, comparing this year’s team to last year’s. “We can walk the hallways as a team. And people tend to come to more games because they know who we are.”

Koeppl notices a difference too. After all, he coached the Wildfire co-op team last year during its final season.

“There’s a certain pride of playing for Holy Family,” he says. “They wear school stuff. They carry their bags around. They’re proud of it and that’s something I am proud of.”

And the Rivalry Begins

December 4 marked history with the drop of the puck at Victoria Ice Arena, the Fire’s home ice. It was the first conference girls’ hockey game between Holy Family and Waconia. Holy Family cruised to a decisive 8-0 victory. Many players on Waconia’s roster were under Koeppl’s guidance just a year ago. That wasn’t lost on the Waconia players.

“Three or four of them came over and said, ‘Hey, how are you doing Coach?’ ” Koeppl says.

For the Holy Family players, it was a game between friends as much as it was a time to be competitive.

Holy Family Girls Varsity Hockey vs. Chaska/Chanhassen Nov 27, 2018: Kayla Woytcke ’22 (28) Photo by Collin Nawrocki

“It was a weird thing because we didn’t want to beat them, but we didn’t want to lose to them,” said Pellicci, who has committed to playing in college at Harvard. “But it was a good outcome. I think everybody on both teams had a really good attitude about it.”

The anticipation to play against former teammates amplified the pregame nerves for Rock.

“You didn’t know how they were going to come out and play. You know every single girl on the team,” Rock said. “During the game it was fun, because you make jokes with each other on the ice.”

Holy Family traveled to Waconia City Ice Arena on January 11 for their second meeting. Rock scored her 50th Holy Family goal that night, as the team cruised to an 11-1 victory and a 2-0 game lead against the Wildcats.

Those early games set the tone for what could be a budding rivalry.

“Obviously Waconia is a natural rival,” Koeppl says. “Chaska-Chan I think is going to end up being a big rival. I would like it if Minnetonka and Eden Prairie would be too.”

Koeppl may just get his wish. When the co-op ended, Holy Family had the option to move from Class AA to Class A because without Waconia’s student body, Holy Family’s enrollment dropped below the threshold that once forced it into Class AA. After consulting Tibesar, parents and players, Koeppl said everyone agreed Holy Family girls’ hockey should remain in Class AA.

“The kids wanted to play AA,” Koeppl says. “It’s better hockey. It’s faster. They want to be challenged, and that’s the type of kids they are. They want to play the best.”

It also comes at the cost of short-term success, with Koeppl noting Holy Family would likely be a top-six team in the state in Class A. But Holy Family girls’ hockey is building for the long term.

“We want to be consistent state championship contenders,” he says. “That’s the goal of the program. We want to be able to run with the Minnetonkas, the Edinas, the Blakes and the Brecks. We’re not there yet, but we think we have a good core that in a year or two we’ll get there.”

That optimism doesn’t just reflect Koeppl’s belief. He hears it from others well connected in the Minnesota hockey community.

“What I’ve heard people say is, ‘It’s going to be fun to watch where your program goes in the next three to four years,’ ” he shares. “I think even people outside of our program are excited to see a new team on the rise.”

 

About the Writer: Mike Nelson graduated from Holy Family in 2008. He is an editor and writer at the Star Tribune in Minneapolis. Since graduating from Marquette University with a degree in journalism, he has also had work appear in Bleacher Report, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and MLB.com. Nelson lives in Burnsville with his wife, Kim.

Scholarship Opportunities for Incoming Holy Family Students

Middle School Matters! Let’s talk scholarships.

Let’s talk SCHOLARSHIPS, and the huge opportunity they provide families with students attending Holy Family Catholic High School.

Each year Holy Family awards a number of scholarships and grants to incoming students. These awards ease tuition costs, while also rewarding students for their past success and future potential.

“We’ve put our money where our mouth is with this program,” says Scott Breimhorst Executive Director of Admissions. “We have dedicated significant financial resources to these scholarships to ensure a broad application of funds is possible.”

For those who like hard numbers, consider these facts:

  • 9X. Holy Family scholarship and grant offerings are trending up with many added during the last three school years. This year, students can apply for nine different scholarships or grants. Most are awarded to multiple students each year.
  • 3 Categories. 1) Merit Scholarships are earned by students that have already achieved and excelled in middle school, and show potential for future success. 2) Qualifying Scholarships are for students meeting specific criteria, such as coming from one particular middle school.  3) Grants are awarded to families meeting qualifying criteria.
  • 100% Eligibility.  Every family enrolling their first student to Holy Family automatically qualifies for a $1,000 grant—the First In Family grant. Just check the box accordingly on the Scholarship Application to receive this multi-year grant.
  • Compounding Interest. Many scholarships and grants are awarded to multiple students each year. Also, most scholarships are renewable annually for four years, and students can apply for up two different merit scholarships.
  • Lots of Zeros. Annual awards range from $500-$3,000. Multiply by four years, and these scholarships grow to several thousands of dollars in tuition savings!

“It is absolutely in every incoming ninth grader’s best interest to apply,” Breimhorst adds. “ With the variety of areas covered in our merit scholarship program, we have the ability to reach many families. Why not give it a shot?”

Before breaking down each scholarship opportunity available to incoming students, here are some essential yet critical things to know:

  • Holy Family Enrollment. Before applying for scholarships or grants, students complete the Application for EnrollmentIncoming ninth grade students must also take the High School Placement Test given in January.
  • Categories. Scholarships are available for academic achievement, leadership, volunteerism, and involvement in extracurricular activities except for athletics. 
  • February 5 is the priority deadline for applications. Don’t wait until last minute. Several scholarships require an essay or plan. These take thought and polishing. Students meeting the February 5 deadline receive first consideration.  Applications received after that date may be eligible if funds are still available.
  • Financial Assistance Applications. For most scholarships and grants, the TADS application for financial assistance is not required. But some do require this application. If so, be sure to complete by February 5.

Now that the official stuff is out of the way, here’s a look at all Holy Family scholarship and grant opportunities. Any way you add it up, these are a win for Holy Family students and families.

MERIT SCHOLARSHIP

President’s Award for Academic Achievement

Award: $500-$1,500 per year

Who Should Apply: Students with proven academic success in middle school or other high schools.

Who’s Eligible: Incoming 9th-grade students and transfer students

You’ll want to know:

Fine Arts Scholarship

Award: $500-$1,500 per year

Who Should Apply: Students who have participated and excelled in art, music or theater.

Who’s Eligible: Incoming 9th-grade students and transfer students

You’ll want to know:

  • Scholarship requires a Merit Scholarship Application
  • Criteria for selection include a student’s past involvement and experience in arts programs, accomplishments in arts programs, and a written statement of “passion for the arts outside of school.”
  • Annually renews if a student continues to participate in Holy Family fine arts programs. 

Founders’ Scholarship for Leaders

Award: $500-$1,500 per year

Who Should Apply: Students whose leadership has positively impacted the lives of fellow students, their community, and the world.

Who’s Eligible: Incoming 9th-grade students and transfer students

You’ll want to know:

St. John Baptist De La Salle Award

Award: $500-$1,500 per year

Who Should Apply: Students dedicated to service and have made an impact on their school, local community, or church.

Who’s Eligible: Incoming 9th-grade students and transfer students

You’ll want to know:

GRANTS

First in Family Grant

Award: $1,000

Who Should Apply: Every family enrolling their first student to Holy Family.

Who’s Eligible: Incoming 9th-grade families and transfer students.

You’ll want to know:

  • Automatic qualification. Families must select this option on Application for Enrollment.
  • Enrollment applications must be received by February 5. Late applications may be considered if funds are available
  • Annually renews.

Catholic Parish and School Staff Discount

Holy Family Catholic High School is excited to provide a tuition discount program for children of Catholic parish and Pre-K-8 school staff members.

Award:  $4,600 per year

Who Should Apply: Staff Members of Catholic Parishes and Schools

Who’s Eligible: Staff Members of Catholic Parishes and Schools

You’ll want to know:

  • Check the box on the scholarship application.
  • Also eligible for other scholarship or tuition assistance awards

QUALIFYING SCHOLARSHIPS

NEW! Ignite the Fire Scholarship

Award: $1,000-$2,500 per year

Who Should Apply: Students from St. Hubert School who were active in SHS programs and activities, plus maintained a 3.5 GPA while attending middle school.

Who’s Eligible: St. Hubert School incoming 9th-grade students attending Holy Family.

You’ll want to know:

  • Scholarship requires a separate application.
  • Students must articulate a plan for remaining active in Holy Family extracurricular activities.
  • Annually renews if a student maintains a 3.25 GPA at Holy Family. 

Click HERE if you are a St. Hubert family with an application on file and would like to apply for the Ignite the Fire Scholarship.

Flaherty Family Foundation

Award: Determined on a case-by-case basis

Who Should Apply: Highly motivated students with high potential and significant economic needs determined by TADS; positive contributor to the community.

Who’s Eligible: Students with a 3.5 middle school GPA meeting needs determined by TADS.

You’ll want to know:

  • Families must complete a TADS application. Those meeting criteria will be invited to complete a separate scholarship application.
  • Annually renews by foundation if similar standards are met each year.

Hildebrandt Family Scholarship

Award: $1,500-$3,000 per year

Who Should Apply: Incoming 9th-grade students attending public middle schools.

Who’s Eligible: Students attending public middle schools who complete separate scholarship application.

You’ll want to know:

  • Scholarship requires a separate application.
  • Annually renews for students maintaining good academic standing.

Click HERE if you are an incoming student from a public school and would like to apply for the Hildebrandt Family Scholarship.

Radick Family Scholarship

Award: Up to $2,000 per year

Who Should Apply: Guardian Angels Catholic School and Parish families with financial need determined by TADS application.

Who’s Eligible: Guardian Angels Catholic School and Parish families.

You’ll want to know:

  • Families must complete a TADS application
  • Applicants may also qualify for additional tuition assistance.
  • No separate application is required for this scholarship.
  • Annually renews if similar standards are met each year.

Apply for Scholarships by February 5 by clicking on the button below

The Secret to Success for Holy Family’s Student Assistance Day

Keeping up with assignments and maintaining test scores doesn’t come without hard work, commitment and plenty of time management. That’s particularly true for students at Holy Family Catholic High School, where students often carry a heavy academic load plus juggle multiple extracurricular activies.

What does it take to make sure students are performing at their absolute best when it comes to academics in this active, stimulating environment?

According to Principal Kathie Brown, it takes a unique program with an equally unique acronym—SAD, which stands for Student Assistance Day.

“The catalyst was the need to help students learn that everyone has times when it appears there is no way he or she can keep up with expectations,” Mrs. Brown says. “Opportunities to prioritize, organize and seek help are life skills that often must be experienced to be internalized.”

Unique Opportunity to Reset

Brown initiated the program over a decade ago, giving students the opportunity to push the reset button and get back on track when the demands of high school life get a little overwhelming.

“By the end of a Student Assistance Day, many students have caught up on their work or advanced their understanding of classroom concepts,” she points out.

Here’s how Holy Family’s Student Assistance Day program works, and why it has been extremely successful in preparing students to be proactive in their success after high school:

  • Once a quarter, SAD is scheduled to coincide with Eastern Carver County Schools’ late starts.
  • One-on-one appointments between students and teachers run from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. All teachers, counselors and learning specialists are available to meet with students.
  • Time can be used to make up work, receive group or individualized help, work on and set priorities for long-term assignments, or take exams missed due to absence.

According to Dean of Academic Support Melissa Livermore, students struggling in a particular class receive SAD appointments with teachers not as a punishment, but as an opportunity to get the individualized help needed, redo work that didn’t meet standards, complete additional assignments to improve understanding and, in return, improve their grades.

Students not required to attend SAD, but who feel the strain of an overwhelming schedule, often make appointments with teachers, as well.

“I have many students who are doing well in class come in to deepen and extend their knowledge. It’s like taking a deep breath,” Livermore says.

Translated: SAD is an opportunity for students to clear their heads of any classroom confusion, relax and focus.

“Learning how to balance academics with outside commitments is valuable,” Livermore says. “However, like in many executive function skills for this age group, it is a skill that many haven’t yet mastered and need guidance with. SAD provides the time for students to work with their teachers without needing to choose between school and an extracurricular activity.”

Extended Reach of SAD

“Over the years, we have found ourselves using SAD as service opportunities wrapped around educational experiences,” Brown says. A few examples:

  • Robotics students often visit local grade schools to engage younger students in engineering lessons.
  • The band director runs a middle school instrumental clinic to encourage young musicians.
  • Groups of students serve breakfast for the homeless at Simpson House in Minneapolis.

Students who need even more assistance don’t need to wait for SAD to regroup. Sometimes staying ahead of the game is half the battle. The NOW program, which stands for No Outstanding Work, is for students needing weekly check-ins to keep up.

  • Students missing assignments during the week stay after school on Wednesdays for a NOW appointment, giving them a chance to catch up and stay on track.
  • Teachers make these appointments, and parents are kept in the loop.
  • To accommodate NOW, extracurricular activities don’t begin until 3:15 p.m. on Wednesdays.

“I find pure joy in the fact these days have organically evolved to serve in many deep ways,” Brown says. “This is education at its finest—when everyone is learning.”

Mark Your Calendars

2018-2019 SAD dates

  • Thursday, October 4
  • Thursday, December 13
  • Thursday, February 14
  • Thursday, May 2

Click HERE to read about Holy Family’s game plan for student success.

 

 

Alumni Spotlight: Mark Engstrom

Alumni Spotlight: Mark Engstrom’s Circle of Life | Holy Family

Mark Engstrom: He was in Holy Family’s first freshman class, graduating in 2004 with unbridled curiosity and ambition. He’s since lived in six cities, traveled the world and has landed back in Minnesota, with an incredible amount of wisdom and advice for Holy Family students and grads.

“The biggest thing Holy Family taught—achieve goals with integrity. It’s something that has served me my entire career.” —Mark Engstrom, 2004 Holy Family graduate

Alumni Profile: Mark Engstrom

Graduated: 2004

Elementary/Middle School: International School of Minnesota; John Ireland, Hopkins

Universities Attended: Purdue University (undergrad); Cornell University (MBA)

Degrees: Bachelor’s Degree in Construction Engineering (2008); MBA (2014)

Holy Family Activities:

  • Math League
  • Student Council
  • Golf

HF: You mentioned in our Passages article that your first assignment after graduating from Purdue (2008) was in Idaho. What was that experience like?

Mark: I was there for four years. At first, it was temporary. I moved from Minnesota to Idaho to work on Cargill’s biogas projects. Basically, we were taking cow manure and turning it into electricity. We’d collect the manure in a big tank about the size of a football field and 20 feet deep, heat it and collect the methane gas, which was run through a genset.  A genset is essentially a locomotive engine with a generator attached to it. When the economy tanked, Cargill scaled back businesses and cut back workforce on that project from 40 to 7. I stayed on and built out operations and optimized the portfolio. It was a great way to cut my teeth on operations and get to tinker and satisfy my curiosity.

HF: How do you think you’ve changed since graduating from Holy Family?

Mark: It’s been 14 years, I lived in six different states, had many jobs and interacted with many types of people who have contributed to the diversity of my life experience. It’s taken me out of my comfort zone and has helped me develop a greater sense of empathy. I now have a better understanding of all the different struggles people and businesses have. This has helped me both personally and professionally. It’s improved my ability to listen and to make people feel heard.

HF: What kind of specific skills did you learn at Holy Family that helped contribute to your success?

Mark: Holy Family wasn’t only focused on the academics. It included a Catholic-based curriculum that taught many core values, including stewardship and building a high EQ (Emotional Quotient). As you make your way through life, you realize the true value of EQ. It develops empathy for others and allows you to hear what others are trying to communicate. Ultimately, empathy helps you to target actions for maximum impact.

HF: Which Holy Family teachers had the greatest impact on what you are accomplishing today?

 That’s a hard question. So many are dedicated and willing to help students outside the classroom. It sets Holy Family apart. All of my teachers there were willing to do that and enjoyed doing that. If I had to name a few, I’d say:

  • Gary Kannel (Math) and Jim Walker (Chemistry). They helped build the technical foundation to be successful in engineering and translate that knowledge to finance.
  • Jorge and Jena Oconitrillo (Spanish). They helped me take my Spanish to the next level, learning the stuff outside of the textbook. I was able to talk about current events and hold conversations all in Spanish. That had a huge impact and made traveling to other countries much easier and relatable.
  • Case Unverzagt (English). U taught me how to write and made me appreciate clean and effective communication.
  • Doug Bosh (Theology). He taught me a simple lesson: Don’t be too hard on yourself. If you make a mistake, course-correct and move past it, which is a useful skill.

It’s great to see so many of them still teaching at Holy Family.

HF: How has Holy Family helped you be successful in pursuing your dreams?

Mark: I haven’t felt that any doors have been closed in front of me, which is all you can hope for. That was one of the struggles coming out of Holy Family. There are so many doors open that it can be hard to choose a path. Many students may think they are making a definitive choice each deliberate step along the way. I’ve learned there are lots of different paths to success. Take a risk and do something you’re passionate about.

Finally, don’t forget to leverage the deep network of Holy Family alumni and parents.  We are more than willing to help get you in front of the right people so that you realize your dreams.

Click on the image below to read more about alumni in STEM careers.

The Inside Scoop on Holy Family Placement Tests

Inside Scoop on Placement Tests: What to Know & Why to Go

FIRE 23 Families—mark January 19 on your calendar and highlight it in yellow. This is the date for Holy Family Catholic High School Placement Tests for all incoming ninth-grade students. It is your student’s first step to securing a successful academic future at Holy Family.

Parents sometimes have questions about our Placement Tests.

  • Why do students take them?
  • How is the information used?
  • What if my student has a bad testing day?

To help answer these questions, and many more, we’re sharing this list of helpful answers. It should give you a complete picture of why Holy Family Placement Testing ensures every student has academic opportunities that uniquely fit his or her needs, interests and strengths.

Q: Is there a difference between an entrance exam and a placement test?

HF: Yes. Typically entrance exam scores are used to determine acceptance into a school. Holy Family does not use entrance exams. Instead, we offer placement tests for incoming freshmen with the goal of placing students in a course level where they can experience success.

Q: Is there only one placement test?

HF: We offer three placement tests:

  • Incoming Freshman Placement Test — Broad scope of topics for all incoming freshmen.
  • Math Placement Test — Required for students interested in courses beyond Algebra I.
  • World Language Placement Test — Required for students interested in taking foreign language beyond the first level course.

Q: What are the dates for this year’s exams?

HF: The placement tests are scheduled for these dates:

  • The High School Placement Test (STS’ High School Placement Test—HSPT®) given to all incoming ninth-grade students is January 19, 2018 beginning at 8 a.m. (please arrive by 7:50 a.m.)
  • Math Placement Test is held in early June beginning at 9 a.m (please arrive by 8:50 a.m.)
  • World Language Placement Tests are scheduled on an individual basis throughout the summer.

Q: What are the test fees?

HF: The Freshman Placement Test is $25. This fee is waived if there is already an Application for Enrollment on file. There are no fees for the Math or World Language Placement Tests.

Q: How is the STSHigh School Placement Test (HSPT®) used?

HF: The test results are utilized in two ways:

  • Provide staff with a clearer academic view of the incoming class. It allows the administration to make staff and curriculum adjustments to suit the needs of the class as a whole.
  • Help identify students who need extra academic support or can benefit from encouragement to broaden their academic horizons.

Q: What subject matters does the High School Placement Test include?

HF: The exam covers a broad scope of topics, including, but not limited to: reading comprehension, vocabulary, literary elements, punctuation, spelling, measurements, area, volume, mean and functions. More information can be found on the STS’ High School Placement Test (HSPT®) website.

Q: But wait! If the Math and World Language Placement Tests are conducted after the February 2018 class registration date, how will we know which math and language classes to register for?

HF: Students should register for the math and world language classes that they intend to take in the coming fall. Once placement test results are in, students can make adjustments to their class schedule if necessary. 

Q: Does every student have to take a Math Placement Test, and is it the only factor used in placing a student in a math class?

HF: Only incoming ninth-grade students who want to register for math classes higher than Algebra I take the Math Placement Test. There are three test options: Geometry, Algebra II or a higher-level math course. Individual circumstances can be reviewed during the process to decide which test is right for a student.

Q: How can my student prepare for the Math Placement Test?

HF: There are math review packets at http://www.hfchs.org/math-placement-faq/  available online, and we host weekend review sessions prior to the placement test.

Q: Who must take a World Language Placement Test?

HF: Only incoming ninth-grade students who want to register for second year or higher Italian, Latin or Spanish courses take the exam for their language of choice.

Q: How can my child prepare for a World Language Placement Test?

HF: Students should review materials from their previous world language classes.

Q: Can a student take a science/engineering placement test?

HF: All ninth-grade students begin their science discovery with biology, and engineering studies begin in our Technology Studies program. Holy Family offers a pre-engineering course to eighth-grade students. Students who successfully complete the course earn a Holy Family semester technology credit, giving them the opportunity to take Engineering II during their freshman year and compete with our robotics team.

Q: If we have a question about where our student has been placed after receiving test results, what do we do?

HF: Let’s talk about it. Our staff welcomes dialogue with parents and students to ensure we are all on the same page. We want all students to be successful—not overwhelmed or unchallenged. If, for example, a student is on the border of testing into a higher-level math class, there is an opportunity to be re-evaluated through a summer course.

Q: If my student is placed in a class and it becomes clear early in the first quarter that it’s not the right fit, can he or she be moved up or down a level?

HF: Flexibility is important when it comes to finding the right fit for students. We encourage families to contact the student’s teacher and counselor to discuss challenges the student is facing. Often one-on-one sessions with the teacher bring the student up to speed. If the family, counselor and teacher determine a move to a less challenging course is necessary, we’ll do our best to accommodate the change with the least amount of disruption to the student’s overall class schedule.

Q: Do any of the test results move students into Advanced Placement (AP) or Honors classes?

HF: Generally the only Honors option offered to ninth-grade students is in mathematics. There are exceptions. PSAT Tests, measuring readiness for college, are taken in ninth and eleventh grades and help identify AP potential.  After ninth grade, teachers will recommend Honors and AP classes to students who have demonstrated the knowledge and skills to be successful in those courses.

Q: Do transfer students have to take any of the placement tests?

HF: Typically, no, they do not. We rely on their incoming transcripts for class placements. 

Q: If my student isn’t able to take the tests on the scheduled dates, are there make-up sessions?

HF: Absolutely! Those with conflicts on the date of the The High School Placement Test should contact Scott Breimhorst at 952-443-1955. Contact the school office at 952-443-4659 to make arrangements for another summer test date for math and world language tests. It is recommended that the math test is taken in early June.

Have A Question?

Ask about Placement Tests and we will include the response anonymously for other FIRE 23 families to see. Send your question to breimhorsts@hfchs.org

SUBMIT YOUR APPLICATION FOR ENROLLMENT TODAY!

The $25 Freshman Placement Test fee is waived for students with an Application for Enrollment on file.

Apply Today

Making Christmas Giving a Family Affair

HF Students Make Christmas Giving a Family Affair

Gather around for a Christmas story that keeps on giving. But first, picture this scene…

It’s early Christmas morning 1980-something. A fresh snowfall blankets the ground outside. Inside, Christmas-tree lights splash a warm glow over carefully wrapped packages. Nearby, a young Johnny Dols fidgets, patiently waiting for his chance to open a gift.

Little did he know on this Christmas Day he was about to experience an overwhelming joy that continues to live in his heart today.

“I remember those Christmas mornings and the gifts I’d get,” says John Dols, now Holy Family’s Assistant Principal and Campus Minister. “None was more special than the year I got a Storm Shadow G.I. Joe. It was like the gift of the year–and I got it! I knew it meant something. My Mom had to do something extra special to get one of those for me.”

School Rallies Around Families

That childhood memory drives Dols’ commitment to bringing Christmas magic to Twin Cities’ kids whose families are in need. Since joining Holy Family Catholic High School 12 years ago, Dols has ignited the Sponsor-A-Family Program, which has delivered Christmas joy to more than 150-plus families.

Students hold out their hands during a prayer of blessing over the gifts during Convocation in early December. The gifts are then prepared for delivery to families.

“It helps many of our students realize some families may not have a Christmas like those you see on TV,” he says. “When you can’t provide for your family, it’s very personal and emotional. What helps is that we not only give the gifts, but also include wrapping paper, tape, and other materials so parents can wrap the gifts for their family. It gives them the chance to make it their Christmas celebration.”

Dols is quick to point out this Holy Family tradition isn’t a one-person effort. (He’s good, but he admits he isn’t Santa Claus.) It takes just about every student, teacher, and administrator to make it happen. The goal is to make sure every family’s “wish list” is filled and complete.

Classrooms adopt individual families. Large families are divided among multiple classes. One eight-member family presented this list:

  • Two baby dolls
  • A remote-control car
  • A stuffed unicorn
  • Winter jackets and boots
  • Hoodies, jeans, and tennis shoes
  • A small kitchen appliance and cookware
  • And multiple sets of bedding

Each sponsored family also receives a sizable gift card to the grocery store of their choice to help with a holiday meal.

Student-Led Tradition

Science teacher Ian Parzyck’s B-period chemistry class traditionally takes the Sponsor-A-Family tradition seriously. Parzyck turns the program over to students to get the job done. And every year, his class delivers big time.

Students in Mr. Parzyck’s Honors Chemistry class prepare gifts for their sponsored family.

Leading efforts for his class this year were 10th graders Alex P., Sydney L., and Elle B. (See photo above.) Together, they collected cash donations from classmates, and then handled the shopping duties. Alex was out on the busiest shopping weekend of the year to stretch their dollars. She consulted with Sydney and Elle via Snapchat and texts for individual gift ideas, selections and picks until their family’s wish list was complete.

“There are a lot of families that go through Christmas and don’t have the joy of receiving gifts that most Holy Family students do,” Sydney says. “Everyone in our class seems to realize that and were eager to contribute.”

Alex adds, “This service project is fun because you know you are directly providing for a particular family. They are directly impacted by what you’re doing for them.”

Holy Family’s Sponsor A Family project culminates at an all-school convocation in early December. The gifts are carefully marked and identified for distribution to each family, blessed, and loaded onto and a large box truck sent from Sponsor A Family MN.

“Other schools do different types of programs, like Toys for Tots and giving trees, but this one fits Holy Family,” Dols explains. “We’re all about the family, so why not pick a service program that makes a difference for entire families.


While the sponsor-a-program supports families outside of our community, Holy Family Catholic High School recognizes there is need within our school for families to receive financial assistance in order to provide Catholic education for their children. Please consider supporting tuition assistance with a gift to the Holy Family Annual Fund.

Click here to read our Advent Annual Fund Appeal Letter.  If you would like to make a gift to The Holy Family Annual Fund, you may download and print the form on the letter, click on the link in the postscript of the letter, or make an online donation by clicking the button below.

Make a Gift to the Holy Family Annual Fund

Why Holy Family? Ask the Class of 2022

We hear your questions. They’re good questions that go something like this:

  • What can new students at Holy Family Catholic High School expect?
  • Why is it the best high school for my kid?
  • Is the buzz about Holy Family accurate? Or “fake news?”

To help out, we asked questions from the most credible, honest and believable sources­—the students who most recently transitioned from middle school to Holy Family. We call them Fire ’22.

Recently, we spoke with 10 students from this year’s ninth grade class. They told us exactly what on their minds after their first few months at Holy Family. Before we get into the good stuff, here’s a snapshot of the Fire ’22 students who shared their thoughts:

Nick C., Chanhassen, St. Hubert Catholic School

Libby K., Bloomington, Calvin Christian School

Luke G., Minnetrista, Our Lady of the Lake School

Ryley C., Shakopee, Shakopee East Junior High

Cassie B., Chanhassen, Minnetonka Middle School West

Briar C., Victoria, Chaska Middle School East

Maeve K., Victoria, Guardian Angels Catholic School

Sebastian G., Prior Lake, Belle Plaine Junior High

Matt S., Chanhassen, Guardian Angels Catholic School

Jack B., Minnetonka, Minnetonka Middle School West

Now to those questions…

Why did you choose Holy Family?

Libby K. – I originally came here for sports. I’m a  hockey player.  Once I was here, I found out it is a really good community. It’s small enough that there is a sense of team, but big enough that you can meet lots of different people.

Ryley C. – I knew Shakopee (high school) would be too big of a school for me to enjoy. When I was at my Confirmation class, I saw Holy Family students serving food. From there, I got the idea to tour and shadow and decided this was the school for me.

Maeve K. – The small class sizes really work for me.

Sebastian G. – My mom wanted me to get in touch with God. It’s been good.

Complete your application for enrollment by December 1 and the application fee is waived.

How has the transition been from middle school to Holy Family?

Luke G. – So far it is going well. The classes are much different than middle school—the amount of homework and the time in class taking notes.

Ryley C. – Grades matter now. I didn’t act like they didn’t matter before, but now you’re in classes with upperclassmen. One thing I found out is, I like school here more than I used to and I’m excited to go every day.

Cassie B. – Since I went to a huge middle school, it was easy coming to a much smaller school. But I had to adjust to the fact we have more work, but it’s manageable. They give you study halls.

What is the biggest surprise or myth about Holy Family?

Nick C. – Biggest changes I see…lunch is really good and you have classes with students from other grades.

Libby K. – I kind of like uniforms because there is enough variation to express yourself, but there’s still unity.

Cassie B. – I have some friends who aren’t Catholic. Everyone is very accepting, and that makes it possible for everyone to come here and enjoy it.

Maeve K. – The upperclassmen are really inclusive and talk to freshmen. If I need help, the teachers are always there to give me a hand.

Jack B. – The biggest myth—people who go to Catholic schools aren’t fun. It’s really fun here.

What advice do you have for middle school students looking at Holy Family vs. other area schools?

Shadow Visits can be scheduled through our admissions office via email at admissions@hfchs.org or by phone at 952.443.1955

Nick C. – Holy Family is a smaller school. That means if you want to play sports, you can just about play any position you want.

Luke G. – I’d say just talk with everyone and be yourself. Don’t be afraid to speak up.

Cassie B. – I would say try it out. Come for a Shadow Day. I thought I was going to Minnetonka and that if I came here, I wouldn’t have friends. I totally changed my mind on my Shadow Day. I met a lot of friends. All you have to do is get involved.

Maeve K. – Be open to anything and do your research because Holy Family is a great place to be. And because it is Catholic means we can say “God” and “Merry Christmas.” That’s a unique opportunity.

Matt S. – Get involved in a fall sport. You meet a lot of people that way.

Jack B. – Just shadow and give it a shot. If you like it, cool. If not, you get to miss a day of school.

What is your favorite thing about being part of the HF “family”?

Nick C. – My favorite thing is the atmosphere. It wraps the Catholic faith into school life with our daily convocations.

Ryley C. – The community and the academics are really good.

Briar C. – You feel safe being here.

Matt S. – I’ve gotten to know a lot of people really fast because it’s a small community where you can actually know everyone.

Applications completed before December 1 will have have the application fee waived.

Complete an Application for Enrollment

 

Investments Impact Every Holy Family Student

STEAM Funding Impacts Every Holy Family Student

Generous donors attending the 2017 Holy Family Spirit of Fire fundraiser showed passionate support for STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics). Just how enthusiastic? More than $100,000 was committed through a special one-evening “Fund-a-Need” campaign targeted to preparing all students for the wave of upcoming career opportunities.

Besides a groundswell of support for the cause, this wasn’t just any Fund-a-Need project, says Holy Family President Michael Brennan. This one was special and has become visible throughout Holy Family classrooms and activities.

“The beauty of this Fund-a-Need is that it impacts every student coming through the building,” Brennan says. “It didn’t single out a specific department or grade level to serve as the beneficiary; rather, it touches multiple dimensions for our educational programing and created a real sense of equity experienced by staff and students alike.”

The first addition from the STEAM Fund-a-Need was the purchase of a large-format 3D printer in the Technology Lab last fall. By the end of this school year, all capital equipment being added through the STEAM Fund-a-Need campaign will be purchased and in place to benefit Holy Family students.

“This Fund-a-Need gave us an opportunity to bring different departments together and ask what was needed outside of the conservative budgets we typically work with,” Brennan says. “It was a chance to ask, ‘What do we need to take things to the next level?’ ”

Here is a list of significant investments made from the infusion of STEAM funding, and how each impacts students at Holy Family:

SCIENCE

Investments:

  • 20 Wolfe Beta Elite Monocular Microscopes – Complete January 2019
  • New flume hood in Chemistry Lab – Ready for 2019-20 school year

Benefits to Holy Family Students:

  • Students entering biological fields in college will be better prepared for laboratory work, having experience with higher level scope mechanics and design.
  • New microscope features, such as better resolution, create a superior lab experience. Students will be able to see better, identify and understand cellular structures and processes.
  • The new microscopes are low maintenance and are expected to last 15 to 20 years.
  • The new flume hood, a glass-enclosed exhaust fan that pushes air and toxic gases out of the building, provides additional space for AP Chemistry students to safely perform a broader range of lab activities.

Science Department Insights

“The science department had previously set aside budget to purchase a small number of these microscopes,” says biology teacher Josh Dwyer. “Funds from the Fund-a-Need helped us reach a 1:1 ratio of students to microscopes for all biological labs, including Biology, Anatomy & Physiology and AP Biology. Essentially this purchase will impact every single student that comes through Holy Family.”

TECHNOLOGY & ENGINEERING

Investments:

  • Large 3D Printer – December 2017
  • CNC (Computer Numeric Control) Milling Machine– September 2018
  • Multiple-Materials 3D Printer – September 2018

Benefits to Holy Family Students:

  • Students in both engineering graphics and robotics have more hands-on learning opportunities by creating more custom parts and prototypes for testing.
  • CNC machine introduces students to the highly sought skill of machine programming, adding a vocational option in the skilled trades.
  • Architecture students can create scale models using the large-format 3D printer.
  • The Multiple-Materials 3D Printer has a 4-head extruder, providing additional flexibility in creating new parts for competitive robots designed and built by the Holy Family Robotics team.

 Technology Department Insights

“Holy Family technology and engineering students now have access to equipment that meets or exceeds other area high schools,” says technology instructor Nick Livermore. “The Multiple-Material 3D printer was on backorder because of high demand from schools and makers. And once we received the CNC machine, we had to wait for new electric to be installed. Everything should be running by Christmas–the improvements we’ll see in the tech lab are worth the wait–and just in time for the heavy robotics building season.”

ARTS

Investments:

  • Digital Kiln – June 2018
  • Kawai GL30 – October 2018

Benefits to Holy Family Students:

  • The new Digital Kiln provides more consistent heat regulation, resulting in better results and outcomes.
  • Up to 75 clay pieces can be fired at once in the new kiln, nearly doubling the volume of the previous kiln. The volume increase is credited to consistent heat throughout the entire kiln.
  • The new kiln, which heats up to 2,200°F, offers improved safety with upgraded ventilation as part of the installation and purchase.
  • The new piano is a high-quality addition to the music program, replacing a used piano that was in place since the school opened nearly 20 years ago.
  • The student body, alumni and parents will experience the new piano at the upcoming Fall Coffee House (Nov. 1) and Spirit of Fire fund-raiser (Nov. 10).

 Art/Music Department Insights

“If you don’t have a functioning kiln, you don’t have a clay program,” says art teacher Shelagh Gamble. “This was a necessary investment. The old kiln was starting to cost more to fix than it was to replace it. We use 4,000 pounds of clay a year with 100 kids taking classes. It is a great investment!”

“I’m looking forward to the Coffee House when the piano makes its debut,” says Brennan. “It’s not every day you buy a new piano. We had one of our teachers ‘test drive’ different models and came back with a No. 1 choice. That’s what we’ll be hearing.”

MATHEMATICS

Investments:

  • Faculty Training, Minnesota Council of Teachers of Math, Spring Conference, Duluth – May 2018

Benefits to Holy Family Students:

  • Faculty learned enhanced methods of introducing technology into classroom teaching methods.
  • Training focused on developing “thinkers” and “problem solvers” through math concepts.
  • Faculty was introduced to new standards to better prepare students for college mathematics and success in their chosen fields.

Math Department Insights

“This wasn’t just about shiny objects,” says Brennan. “It was energizing and inspiring seeing the Math Department seeking professional development and craving to better themselves as teachers. It supports the model of lifelong learning and seeking to always become the best version of ourselves.”

What’s On Tap?

According to Brennan, the investments made from the STEAM Fund-a-Need has infused excitement throughout Holy Family, for both students and faculty. His goal is to carry on that spirit not only this school year, but also many more to come.

“Something like this builds optimism. It becomes contagious when you see contributions being spent to support the cause as they were intended,” Brennan said. “We’ll be planning a new Fund-a-Need campaign for this year’s Spirit of Fire. We’re hoping for the same enthusiastic response. Hopefully, last year’s STEAM Fund-a-Need affirms these gifts are being well stewarded.”

Click HERE to read more about last year’s Spirit of Fire and Strom Engineering’s support of Holy Family’s investment in science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics.

3 Reasons Holy Family Students Succeed

If you’re numbers driven, it is unquestionable that Holy Family Catholic High School students prove year, after year, after year that they are prepared for college.

What are the indicators? Here are some of the biggies:

  • Average ACT Score (2018): 25.5; Average ACT Score of Top 25% (2018): 31.5; Average ACT Score of Top 10% (2018): 32.61
  • College Attendance (2018): 94% (2-Year College attendance (2017) 1%, Athletic Opportunity (2018) with plans to attend college: 5%)
  • College Completion Rate 6 years out of high school: 84% (National Avg. 53%) Source: National Student Clearinghouse, tracks students for six-years in 98% of all colleges

What the numbers don’t tell is…WHY?

  • WHY do Holy Family students routinely outperform Minnesota students taking the ACT by an average of 5 points over the past 5 years?
  • WHY do Holy Family graduates succeed their first year in college?
  • WHY do Holy Family students graduate from college way above averages from other high schools, according to The National Student Clearinghouse?

“One of the things people always point to is ACT test scores,” says Kathie Brown, Holy Family Catholic High School principal. “Yet test scores are not everything. It’s important to be a thoughtful, reflective, rational thinker, and to take action when you have strengths to be active. You can’t have other people think and do things for you. That is what is important in post-secondary education.”

With that, we set out to put our finger on some of the specifics that answer why Holy Family Catholic High School students succeed in college. We asked five experts, all of whom have worked with Holy Family students and seen them succeed in college and beyond. They are:

  • Kathie Brown, Holy Family Catholic High School Principal
  • Jeanne Weber, Owner, collegeONE, helping students organize and streamline the college application process
  • Melissa Livermore, Holy Family Dean for Academic Support
  • Josh Rutz, Holy Family Counselor

Three Reasons Holy Family Students Succeed

Based on independent interviews with each of these experts committed to helping students achieve success beyond Holy Family, there are a number of reasons why they are successful in college, starting with year one. But these three stand out:

1. Students Leave with Exceptional Writing and Communication Skills. Brown admits this can be a challenge in a society driven by digital devices. But that doesn’t change the need to be articulate, she says. When it comes to excelling in college, students with exceptional writing and verbal skills stand out among peers.

Kathie Brown: “If you can’t communicate well, your ideas will die with you. Our kids are not afraid to express their ideas. They can speak in public and they know how to write when they leave here. They are going to wind up helping their peers in college.”

Jeanne Weber: “There seems to be an emphasis on writing (at Holy Family) in more than just English class. I see a focus on writing in history and many of the other classes. This makes Holy Family kids stronger communicators than what I see from other schools. Even when they sit down with an adult, they are a little more at ease. They listen and have great communication skills.”

Josh Rutz: “One thing we consistently hear is that the workload, particularly the written papers, helps our students succeed in college. Alumni often say when it comes to knowing how to study, knowing the expectations of how to be good students and writing papers in college, they say they are well prepared. Doesn’t matter what college they attend. It seems every single student is saying they are well prepared.”

2. Opportunities Build Leadership Skills. Small numbers seem to deliver big results at Holy Family. With an average student-teacher ratio of 13:1, students can’t fly under the radar at Holy Family. Plus, they participate in extracurricular activities in extremely high numbers. The result is an expectation that Holy Family students lead.

Melissa Livermore: “Almost 100 percent of our students are involved in something, and many in more than one thing. By the time they leave Holy Family, our students have excellent time management skills because they are so involved.”

Josh Rutz: “(Holy Family) Students are not just focusing on school, but every other aspect in their lives—volunteering, work, sports, clubs, activities, and in faith and religious aspects. If anything, they’re too busy. Sometimes, they overwork themselves because they are such great leaders and want to have an impact on all aspects of life. One example: We bring kids on service trips all over the world. Those experiences change our kids in great ways. That’s why they do so well in college and after.”

Jeanne Weber: “When I look at Holy Family kids, the biggest advantage they have is the ability to participate. They have great social interactions, which comes from being in a small school, expecting students to take leadership roles and help out others. Participation helps them with leadership skills. They understand the nature of college, and that they’re going there to learn stuff. They’re just a little more well rounded and make good decisions while in college. They are substantially prepared to take that on.”

3. Holy Family Students Advocate for Themselves and Others. Often overlooked, this skill possibly should be at the top of this list. It shows confidence, drive, leadership and independent learning at a very high level.

Jeanne Weber: “Holy Family students are very confident. They’re not boastful, but they are confident. If they see something that needs to be done, they do it. And they know when they need help. At Holy Family, there is an expectation that you are going to do well. Whatever that well is for you. And that’s a reflection of college.”

Josh Rutz: “Holy Family students are not afraid to ask questions. They become great self-advocates and advocates for others. We push and see growth in that from 9th to 12th grade. No matter where they are at, they are willing to ask for help or help each other out when in need. It provides that feeling of never being alone.”

Kathie Brown: “Holy Family students believe in goals. They know it takes practice and time. They know that, ‘Just because I want, doesn’t mean I can have.’ They keep going after it. I love the persistence and perseverance. When catapulted in new places, they are still OK. They know these are the things I need to do and these are the people I need to find to succeed.”

Holy Family students become critical thinkers.

While those three reasons are the consensus favorites, there are many more reasons Holy Family students succeed in college. Here are a few additional thoughts from our experts on why Holy Family Catholic High School students are ready for a successful college experience, starting with day one.

  • Holy Family Students Think About Thinking. It is almost a lost skill in the digital age, says Brown. “They reflect about what they do and why they do it. They have great thoughts and are not afraid to express ideas.”

Livermore agrees: “We want to make sure students are geared toward learning and understanding. Not just for a grade or to check a box. We want them to learn and understand, and think about thinking.”

  • Students Experience Challenging Course Rigor. “We have high standards and hold all students to them,” Livermore adds. “This gives them confidence to take reasonable risks, such as trying new classes that they wouldn’t have before. It doesn’t scare them off, because they know how to do it, and that they can do it.”
  • Life Skills Are Taught at Holy Family. “Students leave here knowing what they need for a successful future,” Brown says. “They’re able to collaborate with peers; work with professors and faculty; and develop a sense of service and true caring for others. These all translate into aspects they’ll use in their lives and the working world.”
  • “Family Network” = Success. “The family atmosphere here pushes kids at a different level,” Rutz says. “When they have hard times and fall, they know where to turn. They come back here, turn to their families and turn to their experiences here at Holy Family that helped them grow. They have the confidence to tackle life. And life is not always easy.”
  • A Sense of Sacrifice and Direction. “I do think Holy Family kids, because their family is paying for high school, have a sense that people are sacrificing to send them there,” Weber adds. “And, maybe because of that, they have a better sense of what direction they want to head in. They can confidently take that step into college.”

Attend our Fall Open House and find out what’s waiting at Holy Family for your child.  Open house details and registration available HERE.