The Secret We Should Not Keep: The Power of Hope and Its Role in Catholic School Education
by Dr. Kevin Sheehan, Molloy College
Freeport, NY – The hope that I speak of is not a wishful or volitional thinking, but a measurable, researched psychological construct. The claim that Catholic schools have the power to build and create hope is not one that is being tossed out lightly or semantically, but one based on over six years of research and observation on the subject of hope in Catholic school education. Shane Lopez in his book, Making Hope Happen, proposed that man is the only animal that can imagine a future, and in simplest terms, he defined the idea of hope as your belief that you can positively shape that future to achieve your goals and live out your dreams (Lopez, 2013).
For the last six years, I have researched, mentored and, yes, even cherished, students from the De La Salle School in Freeport. The De La Salle School is another secret that we should not keep. De La Salle is a small catholic school serving young men from fifth to eighth grade, near or below the poverty line, from Freeport and the underserved communities that surround Freeport. Despite poverty and challenged neighborhoods, this schools’ students go on to achieve an almost perfect high school graduation rate with nearly every student going on to and succeeding in college. We read a good deal about the dismal statistics of children of poverty and the impossibility of these students overcoming their challenging situations, but this school defies the odds with graduation rates and college acceptance rates that would rival more affluent middle class school districts on Long Island. I bet you have not read about this secret in any of the many articles published on the continuing lack of success in educating minority students from challenged communities.
After quantitatively and qualitatively researching the reasons behind the success of these students in the face of such daunting odds, I shared with the school’s founding director, Brother Thomas, qualitative research on the boys’ stories revealed to me that the school had created hope in the children’s lives. My involvement in setting up a mentoring program for the graduates of De La Salle at Holy Trinity High School further revealed that this hope propels them long after their graduation from De La Salle in the eighth grade. The secret that you should now be anxious to discover is how a school can build hope…