By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Reporter
KANSAS CITY — St. Elizabeth School was founded by two Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet in two small rooms at the rear of the original church. Fifty two students were enrolled. That was 90 years ago. Today there are 475 students filling 29 classrooms. For many of those 90 years, service to the community has been a hallmark of a St. Elizabeth’s education, along with challenging academics, centered on Christ.
To kick off Catholic Schools Week, the student council and faculty members planned a pep rally in the gymnasium. Except for the planners, the rest of the students were in the dark about what would happen at the rally.
Class by class, they filed in, some chatting quietly, but all watched their classmates and Student Council members to try and guess what was going on.
Principal Mrs. Pat Kollasch opened the rally saying, “God has no hands at St. Elizabeth’s except ours,” the implication being, With God’s help, what we do here is important.
Suddenly, Flat Dr. Dan, the image of Dr. Dan Peters, Superintendent of Catholic Schools, appeared from behind the podium. A deep, eighth grade voice announced that it was Catholic Schools Week and that Student Council would officiate the rally, with help from eighth grade teacher Molly Williams, their faculty liaison.
OK, students often spend more time with their teachers than with their moms and dads. So how well do the teachers and students know each other? A spirited game of which group knew the others’ music offered a clue. The Beach Boys, Neil Diamond and Don McLean were quickly guessed by the students while the teachers several times went into a huddle. By the end of the game, the score was 6 – 4 in favor of the students.
The music game was followed by a take off on the old game show, “I’ve Got A Secret.” Teachers had written something about themselves to be read aloud and the students had to guess whose secret they had just heard. The kids were pretty good at figuring out who had been a contestant on Family Feud with her family, and who was allergic to broccoli and zucchini. The teacher who had lost her pretty white boots in a pond, the teacher who sang in a choir at the Vatican and the former synchronized swimmer were a bit more difficult.
The students were patting themselves on the back for knowing their teachers so well when Mrs. Kollasch stepped up to the podium again. Wearing a very serious expression, she started to speak about … wait, what was that? Sixth grade teacher Jason Flood walked into the gym, microphone in his hand, singing at the top of his lungs, “Come on now and serve!” a parody of the Isley Brothers 1973 hit “Shout!” As Flood wound through groups of students seated on the gym floor, teachers jumped up and started dancing. At first the youngest students looked confused and startled, but it took little encouragement for them to copy their teachers and jump up to dance.
The flash mob was in celebration of St. Elizabeth School receiving the President’s Gold Award for Service for the 2011-2012 academic year. Carrie Madden, the parish stewardship and development director, said 190 of the 370 students in K through 8 grades logged more than 50 service hours, one of the criteria for the gold award. (An organization must complete more than 1,000 hours in a year to qualify; the 190 students completed more than 9,500 hours.) The cumulative service total for the year was 14,300 hours. So far this school year, the students have logged 8,514 hours of service to the community.
First grader Sara Gibson thought the flash mob dancing was “kinda, well really funny!” Nick Gunter, fourth grade, agreed that it was funny to see the teachers all dancing. “It was funny and pretty cool,” he said. “It made me feel like I had really cool teachers!”
Seventh grader Emma Anielak wasn’t quite so sure. “I was surprised,” she said. “I wasn’t expecting anything like that. It was cool, a little embarrassing, but still cool.”
The students had each served their parish and community. Sara raked leaves with her brother last year and volunteers with her mother at St. James Place. Her Daisy Girl Scout troop was to visit Ronald McDonald House at Children’s Mercy Hospital that afternoon as a service project.
Nick did a lot of yard work with his sister and dad last year. He also worked at the Coaches for Cancer golf tournament, which benefits the American Cancer Society.
Emma volunteered at Harvesters and St. James Place last year, as well as serving Mass at St. Elizabeth. Both Nick and Emma plan to continue last year’s service this year.
As they had filed in, the students began leaving the gym, quietly, orderly — well, here and there you could see arm dancing and hear giggles. And so, back to class during Catholic Schools Week.
The founding sisters would be proud.