BY JEFF FALK
God is all around us. He is everywhere. But His presence is stronger in some places than it is in others.
And the stronger God’s presence, the greater His ability to affect lives.
Lebanon Catholic School has been changing young lives for over a century. It’s what it does.
“My life has changed a lot,” said Anthony Pletz, an LCS senior from Lebanon. “It made me open my eyes to the fact that you don’t always get what you want, and what is expected of you in the real world. It finally made me realize it’s not all about getting what you want.”
“I think spirituality is very important,” said Brandon Noland, a ninth-grader who lives in north Lebanon. “Every time I pray, it always seems like it helps. I’ve gotten into the habit of praying every day.”
“I’m Catholic. I grew up Catholic,” said Alaina Kline, an eighth-grader from the Ebenezer area. “But I like the diversity here. Growing up, I knew the bible stories. But once you get older you learn new stuff about the religion.”
What Pletz, Noland and Kline have in common with other Lebanon Catholic students like Maddi Reigle, Mike Marakowski, Hayley Witmer, even Corinne McCarthy is that they’ve all transferred to Assumption Hill from other local schools. Their reasons for transferring to LCS are as unique as their personalities.
No one’s path through this world is the same. But everyone’s journey can be enriched through a Lebanon Catholic education.
“It was my decision to come here, because I wasn’t doing well at Cedar Crest,” said Reigle, a ninth-grader who’s in her second year of attending LCS. “Some of the kids were making fun of me there, and I decided it was too much, so I came here. All the way up until the seventh grade, I was getting straight ‘A’s, but that last year they sunk to ‘C’s, just because of the stress from other kids and the bullying, and just worrying about that.
“Even though everyone might not like you here, everyone respects you,” continued Reigle. “I haven’t been bullied once. When they tell people about the school, they pride themselves on being a family. And it’s true. People believe that.”
“It was kind of half spritual, half educational,” said Marakowski, a senior from north Cornwall. “My grades were not terrible (at Cedar Crest), but I wanted to bring them up, and they have gotten better. I probably have a better chance of getting jobs, just because I go here. Employers are going to look at a private school education as being better than a public school education. And the same is true with colleges.”
“I’m more happy now,” said Hayley Witmer, a resident of Denver who came to LCS from Elco. “I have much more positive energy. The students, the administration, the staff have really been helpful. I like sharing the religious part of my life with my peers. I wouldn’t have changed my decision for anything. I’m happy here.”
Located on Chestnut Street in Lebanon, Lebanon Catholic School features an enrollment of 340 students, ranging from Pre-kindergarten through high school. Approximately ten percent of LCS’s student population are recent transfers – a number which is on the rise.
“Cedar Crest was a lot bigger. There was like 400 kids in my class,” said Kline, an aspiring basketball player. “But I like that it’s small. We’re like a big family. We don’t have to try out for sports, and we just get more opportunities here.”
“It was my whole family’s decision,” said Noland. “I didn’t like my school and I wanted to go to a Catholic school. The transition wasn’t hard because it’s more relaxing in a Catholic school. I like the smaller classes. I like to interact with teachers. I can ask more questions.”
“I’m not Catholic,” said Reigle. “I thought it was going to be really awkward. It was a little strange for the first week. If you’re not Catholic, all you have to be is respectful. They’re not going to make you do anything you don’t want to do.”
“The summer of my sophomore year my parents split up,” explained Pletz. “I was looking for a fresh start and I decided Lebanon Catholic was a good choice for me. I found out how close the Lebanon Catholic community really is. Everyone knows each other. Everyone’s friendly. It’s small, and you just get along with everyone.”
But not only can a Lebanon Catholic education be a spiritual awakening, it can also be an educational enlightenment, an emotional enrichment and a physical strengthening.
“I would say my favorite thing about Lebanon Catholic is our fans for basketball games,” said Pletz, a star player. “They’re into it. At the beginning of the season they were like ‘Are you ready for another district championshi?.’ At Elco, we never interacted with the fans. Here it’s like the fans are part of the team.”
“I like the religious aspects of it,” said Witmer, who practices the Lutheran faith. “My faith has gotten a lot stronger. I can relate to a lot more. I have more different types of views. I’ve been opened up to a different way of seeing things.”
“Everybody likes each other here,” said Noland. “There’s no problems. You can talk to teachers about anything. There’s smaller classes. They offer religion. It’s a family. They treat you how you’re supposed to be treated.”
Lebanon Catholic’s affordable tuition can be looked at as an investment. Many LCS graduates who go on to college get that money back many times over, in the form of grants, aid and scholarships.
“My dream would be to be a basketball player, but if that doesn’t happen I’d like to go into radiology,” said Kline. “All I have to do is work hard. You can’t just sit around and hope your dreams are going to happen. You’ve got to work for it.”
“It’s like any other school, but smaller class sizes and more Catholic education,” said Marakowski, who’s headed to East Stroudsburg University for athletic training. “All of my teachers have been telling me they’re giving me things public schools can’t. The type of learning. The smaller class size. The classes are just more intense.”
“I want to get my RN (registered nurse) certificate and get trained as a mid-wife,” said Reigle. “I definitely need to stay here. It keeps me happy. It keeps me focused, and it allows me to have fun.”
But perhaps no one epitomizes the Lebanon Catholic experience more than McCarthy.
A resident of Palmyra, McCarthy came to Lebanon Catholic in 2012, after receiving her elementary education at St. Joan of Arc in Hershey and spending three years as a cyber-school student. This fall, McCarthy was chosen as Lebanon Catholic’s homecoming queen.
“That was a huge surprise,” said McCarthy. “I didn’t expect it at all, because I just came here last year. It was a pleasant surprise.
“Cyber school is like home school, but you take your classes on-line,” continued McCarthy. “It’s free of charge to the student. I liked the academics. But the thing I didn’t like was no social interaction. I missed the everyday social interaction.”
What McCarthy likes about the intimate social interaction at Lebanon Catholic is that it’s not overwhelming.
“I’d say the close-knit feel of it is what I like most,” said McCarthy, an aspiring writer. “Everybody knows everybody, and the fact that I get to practice my Catholic faith openly is important to me.
“You get to know the teachers, and it’s more personal,” she added. “They’re able to write you a recommendation because they know you.”
McCarthy’s faith and spirituality is important to her. And at Lebanon Catholic, that spirituality is encouraged, not discouraged.
“I think I’d still be pretty strong in my faith if I hadn’t come here,” said McCarthy, “but I don’t know if I’d have the same social skills.
“Religion to me is one of the most important things in my life,” McCarthy continued. “At public schools, they discourage you from talking openly about your faith. Here, it makes you more tolerant of other religions.”
– Children are not young people to be molded, they are young people to be unfolded.