There’s a lot going on in Catholic education on the west side of the Hudson River. This year, the Ulster/Sullivan/Orange Catholic School Region saw an additional day of free Universal Pre-Kindergarten (UPK) added to the program at Sacred Heart in Newburgh and the introduction of UPK at Most Precious Blood in Walden – adding to existing early childhood programs. Regional scholarships were awarded to more than 80 students and four principals joined the region, adding new talent to the ranks of school leadership.
In a diverse region with rustic farm pastures and one third of the schools considered to be inner-city, improved integration of technology into classrooms remains a top priority. Recently, Burke Catholic High School converted to an “all-digital” learning environment. Regional leadership is currently evaluating existing technology infrastructure in all its elementary schools through the lens of the Burke model, with the long-term goal of implementing best practices across the region.
At Kingston Catholic, students are benefitting from the iPad Lab Project, funded by school parents, which, among other things, enables middle school students the ability to take virtual field trips to such places as the Vatican and the Louvre Museum in Paris. This portal also allows participation in the NASA Explorers Club, an exciting online program that opens the wonders of God’s universe to young minds, including virtual access to the International Space Station.
While the stars are the limit, the region continues to make strides in tackling more Earth-bound challenges, such as generating revenue to support schools. In June 2014, the region’s Board of Trustees, in collaboration with a volunteer committee, organized its first ever regional Fundraiser — a 5K Fun Run supported by local vendors. Given the considerable distances separating most of the region’s schools, the event also provided an opportunity to strengthen regional identity and unity. As an added benefit, the event allowed students and their families to demonstrate “faith in action” by collecting canned goods for local food pantries.