Forming the Future: Growth through community at St. Paul School, Hingham

HINGHAM -- Enrollment at St. Paul School has increased by almost 25 percent over the past three years, a trend that Principal Lisa Fasano and Director of Enrollment Jean Schnorr attribute to the culture that the school cultivates.

The school has students from 13 different South Shore towns, and the school encourages the local community to take responsibility for its preservation and growth.

Speaking to the Pilot on May 23, Schnorr said one theme of the past few years at St. Paul School has been "generations of faith." Some families are made up of St. Paul School alums that now have children of their own attending the school.

"The generations have kept us, kept this institution, going for over 65 years," Schnorr said.

She said their greatest outreach is through the churches and through students' families drawing in their neighbors. Besides mailings and promotions, she said, "what we try to do is emphasize to our families that it's all of our responsibility to share the opportunity with those who may be of like mind."

She said St. Paul School has a "very active" PTO, and students' parents and extended family members have many opportunities to be involved in the community. Recently, for example, the school held Grandfriends Day (since not every student has grandparents).

Schnorr said the school focuses on letting parents know that "we are an extension of their family and their family's faith, and we encourage them to be a part of that here, and to be involved, because we are only as strong as our collective. So, the good news of St. Paul's spreads because our parents spread that news."

Fasano said the school's Catholic culture "is part of who we are and what we do." Its "difficult to explain," she said. "It's really something that needs to be seen."

The way the students communicate has "a respectfulness behind it," she added.

She said that when the students attend Mass and answer questions during the homily, it is "evident" from their answers that they are "very well versed in our Catholic religion," not just from religion class but from living by it.

Schnorr said families have told her that when students play team sports, coaches notice the kindness they show and ask the parents, "Does your child go to St. Paul School?"

"That's not something that you can define, that's not a curriculum piece -- that is a culture. And that is an expectation that we share with our families upon inquiry into the school. And they feel it from the day they are admitted, because they are welcome by other St. Paul School families," Schnorr said.

The school is also consistent in its use of social media. A weekly newsletter goes out to alumni, families of current students, and anyone who participates in school events. The school uses Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to connect with different demographics within the St. Paul School community.

"Overall, I think there's a growing level of excitement at this school, and pride for their institution, both from our staff as well as families, to be a part of it, and to be part of something as genuine and as positive as it is," Schnorr said.

She added, "I do know that our families take great pride in that and really want to do everything. We are growing because they want to see that growth. They want to see that in their families. They want to see that in their communities."