The gift of education - Catholic Foundation

The gift of education

By Michael Crutcher

Catholic school scholarships aren’t just a gift – they’re the start of a cycle that results in students giving back to society, one high school principal says.

St Mary’s College, Maryborough principal Graham Meertens has seen the journey go full circle: the excited student awake and dressed for school before dawn becomes the employee guiding people in valuable ways.

“I’ve seen it many times,” Mr Meertens said.

“The students who are lucky enough to receive scholarships to attend school often go on to work in fields that are very valuable to society.”

Mr Meertens has been highlighting the value of scholarships in his role as an ambassador for the Annual Catholic Campaign – which begins across the archdiocese this weekend.

Mary MacKillop Bursaries are available to students across the archdiocese, ensuring a Catholic education for all primary and secondary schooling.

The Annual Catholic Campaign also raises funds for important work at Centacare, Holy Spirit Seminary, the Priests Foundation and the Annual Grants Program.

The names of the bursary recipients are kept private but their families show gratitude in different ways. They have baked cakes for teachers, sent inspirational notes and delivered the anecdotes that make you smile.

“Yes, I’ve been told about the students who are just so excited to get to school that they’re awake at 5am, dressed and ready to go,” Mr Meertens said.

“You can really feel the appreciation of the families to receive a Catholic education that was otherwise unattainable for them.

“And it’s good for parishioners to know about this. They’re donating to the Catholic Campaign and they often like some benefits to occur in their region.”

Three Maryborough students have received bursaries and Mr Meertens said the school was hopeful of another in the coming year.

Director of the archdiocese’s Resource Development Office Mary Macuga said all funds raised from the Catholic Campaign would be used within the diocesan boundaries.

“All funds raised through the Catholic Campaign flow back into the vital work of Catholic agencies here in our community,” Mrs Macuga said.

The St Mary’s College catchment takes in a region that has been tested by unemployment.

That presents a challenge for some families trying to make a new life after a relation leaves the Maryborough Correctional Centre.

But St Mary’s College has delivered outstanding results from a base of 410 students.

“We had three students receive OP1 rankings last year,” Mr Meertens said.

“But we also had several apprenticeships from that same class and that’s very satisfying.

“We provide a lot of care to the students. It’s a student-centred education approach. We look after the learner.”

Some of that work will be shown to Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge this weekend when he has a pastoral visit to Maryborough.

Mr Meertens said the school and parishioners were excited at the chance to see Archbishop Coleridge and to tell him more about a community that promotes the value of learning.

“It’s all about life-long learning – you never stop learning,” Mr Meertens said.