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 (2017): 25.4; Average ACT Score of Top 25% (2017): 31.7; Average ACT Score of Top 10% (2017): 33.6
  • 4-year College Attendance (2017): 93% (2-Year College attendance (2017) 1%, Athletic Opportunity (2017) with plans to attend college: 3%)
  • 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
  • Laura Horton, Holy Family Counselor

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.

Laura Horton: “One of the biggest things to college success is knowing how and where to advocate for yourself. When Holy Family students are out on their own, they check on academics, go to counseling services for help, and join clubs and groups to get connected and build that important social network. Being your best advocate is putting those skills to use. Sometimes, life happens. How students use these support services to tackle bumps in the road that likely come up defines their success.”

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.”

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,” Horton 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.”

Click HERE to meet alumni Ella Dahlin ’14 and see the impact a Holy Family education had on her success.

Alumni Spotlight: Tom Mahota’s Bright Future

Tom Mahota: Known for putting his best effort into everything he takes on, this 2017 Holy Family Catholic High School graduate explains opportunities and those around him helped shape a path for success.

“My family has always encouraged me to do well in school and work to become a better person, but being around people and friends who strive for the same things makes it much easier and more natural. Holy Family is an easy place to do this because there are so many good people who want success for themselves and others.” —Tom Mahota, 2017 Holy Family Graduate

Graduated: 2017

Elementary/Middle School: Our Lady of the Lake School, Mound

Attending: University of Minnesota–Twin Cities

Major: Engineering Mechanics and Astronautics

Holy Family Activities:

  • Baseball
  • Soccer
  • Nordic Skiing
  • Football
  • Robotics
  • Knowledge Bowl
  • Eco-Freako Club
  • Bowling Club
  • Honor Society
  • Campus Ministry
  • Empty Bowls
  • Art Fairs

HF: What is your definition of “success?”

TOM: I think that someone who is successful in life is someone who has found happiness in themselves and in others. I’ve met a lot of people—good, bad and everything in between. One thing I’ve learned is that people who can recognize that their happiness doesn’t come from just themselves treat others with a particular kind of kindness.

Everyone has ups and downs in life, but the people who are able to find happiness in others are the ones who stand out to me. I would definitely consider this success.

HF: How have your varied experiences connected to the person you are?

TOM: One of the most valuable things that I’ve found in being involved in such a wide scope of things is how to deal with many different types of people.

It is amazing to experience the difference between the atmosphere of a locker room and an art fair. Neither one is better than the other, yet the people, the atmosphere and the temperament are completely different.

There is value in both, and the people I have met in both have definitely shaped me.

Anyone who knows me will tell you I’m a very competitive person. A big reason for this is from the years of sports and having such a large part of my life be competitions with amazing coaches and mentors.

Then there is also the creative side. I’ve been building things for as long as I can remember, and the people I’ve met at places like workshops or art fairs are some of the most interesting and kind people I’ve encountered. I’m hoping that those traits are rubbing off on me as much as the competitiveness.

HF: With so many interests, how do you remain focused on what is important?

TOM: I think the best way is to simply surround yourself with the right people. My family has always been encouraging me to do well in school and work to become a better person, but being around people and friends who strive for the same things makes it much easier and more natural. Holy Family is an easy place to do this because there are so many good people who want success for themselves and for others.

HF: How do your interests transform how you perceive the world?

TOM: My perception of the world is through a lens of all the different things I do and the connections I can make between them. I’ve found my experience with things that seem totally different helps me excel when I bring qualities from each together.

One example is robotics. When designing and developing a machine to shoot balls, I used concepts and ideas from baseball pitching machines. I’d been around them my whole life and was able to draw a similarity from baseball to benefit what we did in robotics.

HF: Now that you have graduated, do you see yourself as a role model for other high school students?

TOM: The way I perceive myself is no differently than the way I see other people. Everyone has his or her own talents, interests and shortcomings, including myself.

I feel like a lot of times people see someone do something amazing and say, “Oh, there’s no way I could do anything like that,” before even trying it.

The only thing I would say that has helped me succeed is this: I never tell myself I can’t do something, or that something isn’t for me before I try it and decide for myself.

SHARE YOUR HOLY FAMILY EXPERIENCE. If you have a unique story, experience or twist in life because of the influence Holy Family Catholic High School has had on you, share it with us. E-mail your story to: communications@hfchs.org. We’ll spotlight stories from Holy Family parents, students and alumni.