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What parents and students are saying about our Catholic schools

A recent West Catholic High School graduate sent this letter to Principal Cindy Kneibel about how well his high school teachers prepared him for college:
August 18, 2016
Dear Mrs. Kneibel,
I would like to start by wishing you, and the entire West Catholic staff a successful and happy new school year.
However, the actual purpose of this email is to inform you about my college experience so far, and how West Catholic relates to my college experience.
To begin with, I would like to say that college has been a very positive experience so far, but challenging at times. It has been through my education at West Catholic, however, that I have been able to overcome the educational challenges that I have faced thus far in college. 
In regards to English, I am currently in a basic communications class, and due to my major (BSME) it obviously is not a high level course, but I can recall doing assignments and papers that were more challenging in 9th and 10th grade. I cannot thank the great English teachers at West Catholic enough for all of the writing we did. Although burdensome at the time, it pays off in the long run. I am currently receiving an "A" in the class and it requires very little thought to produce quality work for the class, because writing quality papers is now second nature due to Mrs. Hoffman, Mrs. Wesorick, Mrs. Hoodhood, and Mrs. Danevicz.
On the topic of Mathematics, it is vital to engineering, so it was very important for me to have an understanding of trigonometry and calculus before even entering college. Thankfully, I learned from some very wise teachers in my years at West, such as; Ms. G, Mrs. Kraus, and Mrs. Cortes. Ms. G always taught me to stay positive and critical thinking, while Mrs. Kraus taught me the importance of doing your homework and getting to understand trig identities, and Mrs. Cortes hammered many different key concepts into my head relating to Calculus. Mrs. Cortes taught me 2 full college courses of material in just a year. 
Similarly, the science department has also made a huge impact on my transition into college. Mrs. Check taught my Honors Chemistry class when I was a sophomore while she took over for Mrs. Hart, and it amazes me how she taught it so well that I still remember nearly all of the material we went over then, because my Chem 135 class is actually easier than my Honors Chemistry high school class. I am taking Newtonian Mechanics next semester, so I am excited to see how well I do because of the great physics background Mr. Nawrocki has taught me. Also, the Pre-engineering class was helpful as it introduced me to CAD and the engineering process, which was great.
Finally, and I believe most importantly, in regards to my faith, I would say the religion department has prepared me exceptionally well for the real world. From Mr. Nolan's, "The Church" class, all the way to Mr. Hyland's, "Sacraments of Service" class, a lot of important material was covered. It is SO important to understand your faith as you move on in life, and the combination of classes students take in religion give students the background they need to stay true to their faith. Although a private school cannot create the atmosphere of a college campus or a public high school, I think if a student takes the religion courses seriously, they can do just as well in the real world as if they were exposed to a "public school" setting. Anti-Catholic sentiment is very present on campus, whether it be in the form of jokes or bashing of past scandals in the church. It has not caused me to question my belief in the Catholic Church, because I have been taught what the church truly stands for due to the amazing teachers in the Religion department: Mr. Nolan, Mr. Nugent, Mrs. Pearce, and Mr. Hyland. 
In closing, I would really just like to say thank you to you, Mrs. Kneibel, for managing and running the great institution that West Catholic is. Please extend thanks to everyone in the offices as well (Mrs. Ysasi, Mr. Hyland, Mrs. Ford, Mrs. Siereveld, and Mr. Fischer), because they do so much for so many people, and do not receive enough thanks from the students. I know I am forgetting so many wonderful people, but I also recognize how busy you must be preparing for the new school year, so I tried to keep this as short as I could while getting my main point across. I am proud to be a graduate of West Catholic, and thank everyone who contributed to my education, because they all made a difference in my life.
Carter Cobb
A mother wrote to share how Ss. Peter & Paul school, Holy Trinity school, and West Catholic High School have supported her son:
March 2, 2016
Fr Tom Simons
Superintendent David Faber
Greetings Fr. Tom/Superintendent Faber:
I am writing to share my son’s story with you and those who have had a positive impact on our lives. My son, Bryce was born premature and had several complications at birth. Resulting in developmental delay and other special needs, later being diagnosed with Autism and Severe Anxiety. He started Kindergarten in the public school system, but I quickly learned it was not where he belonged. A colleague suggested St. Peter and Paul Catholic School (Ionia). We went for a visit, Kathy Rand was the principal and she welcomed us with care and compassion. We never left after that visit, SSPP became our School and Parish Family.
In 5th grade Bryce asked if I would promise that he be able to go to a Catholic HS, he loved the Catholic School so much he wanted to finish his education there. I was a full time single mom and working in Ionia, I was not sure how I could make this happen. I prayed and put it in God’s hands. A little over a year later, I was offered a different career path. One that would open many doors, allowing us to move and give my children the opportunity to continue their Catholic Education beyond 8th grade.  I researched Catholic High Schools and determined West Catholic was the best fit for my family. Next, K-8 Catholic Schools that funneled into WC. I prayed for guidance and in my search I discovered Kathy was the principal at Holy Trinity. That was God’s sign! Bryce started 8th grade at HT and his younger sister, Jayden started 5th grade. Again, we were welcomed with care and compassion by Kathy. Holy Trinity became our new School and Parish Family. To shed a little light on how much Kathy means to us, Bryce asked her to be his Sponsor for Confirmation.  
Bryce is now a sophomore at West Catholic. High School has brought many academic challenges as a result of his Autism and Developmental Delay. However, with the help of West Catholic’s amazing teaching staff, Emily Hoffman in particular, and his tutor at home, Bryce adapted and continues to make improvements, in fact, he currently has his highest GPA to date.
I hope you were able to see the story of Bryce and his West Catholic JV Basketball Team that was shared by Fox 17 and WZZM 13 ( Bryce came to me this fall and wanted to try out for Basketball. I was very skeptical, knowing his athletic ability was delayed, he struggles with peer acceptance and an extracurricular activity would take away from the extra time required for his academics. However, he told me if he didn’t try, he would regret it. I knew he needed to do this and if handled properly it would be a positive life experience for him. Bryce’s greatest struggles from his Autism and Anxiety are social interactions, cues, and peer bonding. I conversed with Assistant Principal Tony Fisher, he agreed this would be a great experience for Bryce and was in full support of him trying out. Bryce did not make the roster, but was offered the position of Team Manager. Bryce was disappointed he did not make it, but willingly accepted the Team Manager Position. Bryce has embraced this role and does not take it lightly. His coaches and teammates will tell you “Bryce is the heart and soul of this team.” Coach Johnson asked Bryce to suit up for the remaining 4 games. On February 18th, Bryce did suit up and he played the best 4 minutes of basketball, ever and shot a beautiful 3 pointer! 4 minutes that will last a lifetime. You could feel the energy and excitement in that gymnasium, God was at work. The video speaks for itself. However, all of this is so much more than those 4 minutes, it is about role models, faith, compassion, and acceptance, at its best!
On February 18th God, once again, showed me how big Bryce’s purpose is and why it was him He gave these challenges too, through Bryce He has turned those challenges into gifts. I am blessed that God trusted me to be his mom and to witness all of this firsthand. God showed me that Bryce and his teammates are changing how those with special needs are viewed; they are teaching acceptance. I am beyond thankful for Kathy Rand, Emily Hoffman, and Coach Johnson, they are role models who have changed my son’s life for the better and left a lifelong imprint on our lives. I am thankful for Bryce taking a chance and for the special group of young men who have embraced him. All of this is God’s work.
We are blessed to be part of the St. Peter and Paul, Holy Trinity and West Catholic Families. We are blessed to have these schools, Principal Rand, Principal Kneibel, and their staff preparing our children for the future. If you want to witness something amazing come out to West Catholic Thursday, March 3rd for the JV Basketball Team’s last home game. Might even get to see #32 take the floor.
God Bless,
Angie Sprank

A mother from St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic School sent this note to Principal Suzi Furtwangler and Superintendent Dave Faber:
I am writing this note to thank you for the best experience in education that any of my children have ever experienced.  Last night, our daughter graduated from St. Thomas.  My husband and I are both so grateful for the care, the sense of community and the loving embrace that St. Thomas provided as we relocated here 4 years ago.  Our daughter flourished at St. Thomas.  From the wonderful teachings in our faith, to the exciting and challenging academics in Science, Math, and Language Arts, she learned and grew in her experiences.
Suzi, you and your team are to be highly commended.  You provide an environment that is loving and caring, while still setting the marks for academic and athletic challenges.  From your administrative team to the fine educators in the middle school, our experience has been outstanding.  We appreciate all of these attributes and will miss being in the halls for conferences and at field trips with the class.  But, our daughter is ready for Catholic Central, and you have helped make that possible. 
I copied David Faber here, because I want him to be aware of how great an impact your leadership and compassionate service have made on our daughter and family.  You are an asset to our faith and our diocese and we are so thankful for your leadership.

God Bless our future St. Thomas students and have a wonderful summer!

A mother from Immaculate Heart of Mary posted the following about the relationship her young daughter already has with His Blessed Mother:
"These past couple of days have been very emotional, the bond between my daughter and I grew so much at such a young stage in our lives. At Deacon Ken Baldwin's visitation we prayed the rosary. I look over and see her small little hands pressed against each other and her lips praying along. Later, as we head to the door she stops me and tells me " Mama, when you decide to go to heaven can you let me know?" We head out side the door and she walks over to the statue of Blessed Mary and asks me if we can sing her a song. We start singing Immaculate Mary. We finish and she tells me " Mom, Mary told me she wants to be painted in different colors--she doesn't want to be white like the snow."
A mom from Divine Providence Academy posted the following:
"Our children are absolutely thriving at DPA-St. Catherine! Our 3rd grader recently tested at an 8th grade level in both math and reading, our 2nd grader tested at a 4th grade level in both math and reading, and our preschooler is showing great beginning reading skills!! Don't be afraid to check out our AWESOME little school!!!"
Sydney, who is in middle school at Ludington Area Catholic School wrote this article for the local newspaper:
"When I go to this school, I learn many things. One thing that I would like to talk about is my faith.
I go to this Catholic school to learn more about my faith, and to strengthen my connection with God. We have religion as a subject every day in school. We talk about the Bible and talk about our faith. By doing this we can hear other people's perspectives on our faith.
  Another thing I want to talk about is our education that we get from classes. The teachers are great. The small class sizes contribute to the fact that the teachers can help us whenever we need to be helped. This helps us learn faster, because the more time we spend raising our hands for help, the less work we are doing, therefore not learning as much as we could be.
  We are also able to go out and contribute to our community by doing community service for those who need help. For example we traveled out and raked an elderly man's lawn because
it was too large for him to do on his own. We also do projects to help out the less fortunate.
  That's why I like going to Ludington Area Catholic School. "That's why I like going to Ludington Area Catholic School."


A parishioner emailed this to our principal at San Juan Diego Academy:

"Dr. Brenes,
  I had the pleasure of attending the Ash Wednesday morning mass with your students. I was very impressed with their participation in the mass. They were all so well behaved, even the littlest student. I know that is not always easy for children.
  I also noticed them helping each other. The older kids helping the younger kids, sitting with them, etc. It's a wonderful thing to see. Especially in a day where bullying is so prevalent in some schools. 
  The manta they said all together toward the end of mass brought tears to my eyes. These kids are our future and they know it. It's a promising future for San Juan Diego and for our community. 
  It's wonderful to see a principal who truly loves his students. Who cares about their well being and encourages them to work hard for their futures. SJDA is very blessed to have you.
  I won't take up any more of your time. I just wanted you to know it was a special treat for me."


A letter mailed to our office from a parishioner at St. Mary's Spring Lake talked about the students helping those in need:

"Dear Mr. Faber,

This note is in regards to a flyer which was placed in the church bulletin for St. Mary's Catholic Church in Spring Lake, Michigan on the 3rd Sunday of Advent. As a volunteer in Jail Ministry at the Ottawa County Jail on Fillmore in West Olive Twp. we have been collecting tube socks and reading glasses for this year's project under the direction of Jude Acheson, Director of Prison/Jail Ministry for the diocese.

  On the front of this flyer I read through the thoughts of what the 5th graders were trying to focus on during Advent (which was beautiful) and then I turned the page over to read what all the classes were doing for Advent- outstanding.

  I smiled when I saw the 5th grade project and stopped to simply say "thank you" at the elementary school for also contributing to our parish Christmas drive only to be called by Mrs. Jean Jannenga (5th grade teacher) who invited me to stop by and thank the children. I did this on Friday before their Christmas party and then was surprised that they too had taken up their own sock and reading glasses collection and presented it to me which has now been turned over to Jude Acheson to distribute."


A card mailed to our office from a family at St. Joseph's School in Pewamo thanked The Bishop's Scholarship Fund for its help over the years:

"Dear Bishop's Scholarship Fund,

As this card of thanks finds you so late in the school year please know it is still truly sincere and very appreciated. We would like you to know we have recently been blessed with a good job promotion, so with this new income we will no longer need your financial help. We will always appreciate your prayers.
We would like to briefly show you a fraction of the results from your support of our eight child family. As of now to our families' credit we have 1 Valedictorian, 2 Salutatorians, 2 Principal's Awards, 3 Top Ten.
After high school 2 Masters, 3 Bachelors, 2 working on their bachelors, 1 very admired high schooler, and 2 first and second grade sweeties.
We as parents have taught high school C.C.D. for about 15 years, are members of Knights of Columbus, Altar Society, and many church ministries. Our sons are Knights of Columbus, they were altar servers all the way through high school, coached St. Joseph basketball and are still admired as good Catholic young men. Our daughters also served the altar through high school. They were high school basketball stars, coached St. Joseph girls basketball. They teach Sunday school and participate in many church events. They are also very admired by our community as very good examples of young Catholic ladies.
So for all that was said, we would like to again say thanks for everything!"