When our first daughter Alexandra — Ali — was born nearly 30 years ago, one of our earliest and most important decisions was to find a school that felt right — for her, and for us.
This was a big part of why we had moved to Springfield, PA; it was home to a public school district we had heard great things about. It was a place where we believed she could fit in. At least, that was the plan.
“Today, more than ever, AOPS schools are working harder to create a community and engage students — helping them build character and get involved as examples to others in the community.”
During the week when Ali attended public school, she also attended PREP (called CCD back then!) at St. Francis of Assisi, our local parish. We wanted her to learn about our faith and get prepared for receiving first communion. But what we didn’t expect was how quickly Ali felt drawn into the environment there.
“Mom, I want to go here one day,” she would tell us. She deeply wanted to spend more time in the community where she was already making friends and exploring faith. She wanted to be more involved.
So we decided to enroll her at St. Francis of Assisi School — and then her younger sister Kristina — and our next two daughters, Rebecca and Tessa.
It’s funny… growing up, both of us went to Archdiocesan Catholic schools — first at St. Anastasia in Newtown Square (Lisa) and Sacred Heart in Manoa (Marty)… and then at Cardinal O’Hara High School (both of us) in Springfield. In a lot of ways, what’s great about AOPS is the same today as it was back then.
But what we’ve also seen as our four daughters have made their way through Catholic education is that today, more than ever, AOPS schools are working harder to create a community and engage students — helping them build character and get involved as examples to others in the community.
For Ali, it was getting involved with helping younger kids learn. After she graduated from St. Francis of Assisi and moved onto O’Hara, the school offered a program that allowed her to help tutor elementary-aged students and show them the ropes.
For our daughter Kristina, it was the Snow Patrol. She and the other students would meet at the rectory before a big snowfall to identify vulnerable elderly members of the community. Snow Patrol volunteers would bring them warm food and shovel their pavements, helping to keep them safe.
To us, the most amazing part of our experience with AOPS has been the opportunity to see — across four children and 18 years — the dedication of the teachers who make it possible. Many of the same teachers who were there with Ali 20+ years ago are still here today, making a difference for kids like Tessa and her classmates. There have been many amazing teachers, such as Delores Aragona, who set high expectations and got involved, refusing to take or accept any shortcuts.
It’s not easy to find a school where your child is provided with the opportunity and encouraged to get involved and be the best they can be. In some cases, parents who are unsure about the school their children are attending may not even know where to start looking for other options. For us, it started with listening to our oldest daughter Ali — and we so are glad that we did.
Marty and Lisa Purcell live in Springfield, PA and are the proud parents of four daughters — Alexandra, Kristina, Rebecca, and Tessa.