Catholic Schools Foundation bus tour visits St. Mary of the Hills School, Milton

MILTON -- Are Catholic Schools Foundation Board of Trustees members Kara Brennan, Cindy Wickwire, and Brian J. Gallagher smarter than three sixth graders from St. Mary of the Hills School in Milton?

According to a game show played during the CSF's school bus tour to St. Mary's on Oct. 11, the answer is a definitive no.

During the game "Are You Smarter Than Our Sixth Graders?" students Niamh Dennehy, Elisa Atwereboanah, and Walden Dexaus were faster than the adults on the buzzer, correctly answering questions about geography, history, and politics. CSF executive director Michael Reardon, who graduated from St. Mary's in 1989, joked that the adults would've had more of a chance if all the questions were about accounting.

Reardon said that both the game show and the bus tours, which take CSF donors to a different school in the Archdiocese of Boston each year, are ways of demonstrating what Catholic education is capable of.

"You're here because of the students," he told the 60 donors and supporters who went on the tour. "Love is what makes this all work, along with your support, which is a sign of love."

The donors relived their own school days by taking a bus from Boston to St. Mary's. Students and faculty were there to greet them and take them on a tour of the school, popping into classrooms and watching lessons as they happened.

Reardon told The Pilot that CSF chose to tour St. Mary's because it "is an extraordinary example of a school that serves a diverse population with extraordinary outcomes, where each child is known and loved."

"Physical improvements have been made," he added, "but the heart of the school is still the same since I've been here."

"It's an honor," St. Mary's Principal Suzanne Banach said. "We're thrilled because of the opportunity to be able to say thank you in person to the donors who have made it possible for our children to come to school."

Banach said that she was most excited for donors to see the children whose lives are changed by their generosity.

"The kids know that they're loved," she said.

St. Mary's educates 270 students from preschool through eighth grade. First and second graders sang the Prayer of St. Francis before the donors went on their tour. They saw preschoolers learning each other's names, kindergarteners doing alphabet exercises, and fourth graders reading a book about Michael Jordan.

In the first-grade classroom, students, as well as CSF Board of Trustees President Mike Rogers, guessed how many toy blocks were in a jar. Rogers guessed 32, coming closest to the actual number, 35. Since the students did not know Rogers's name, he was represented on the whiteboard as a smiley face.

Third graders read a book about perseverance, which Banach said was the school's theme for the year.

"Perseverance is when you don't give up," one third grader said. "You can't do something, then you learn from your mistakes, and then you can do it."

Tiana Egwim, who graduated from St. Mary's this year, spoke to donors about how the school encouraged her to persevere.

"You have empowered us to our full potential and ensured a brighter future for all of us," said Tiana, currently a freshman at Newton Country Day School.

She said that at St. Mary's, she was pushed to succeed both academically and in volleyball.

"My teachers advised me to be the best person I could be," she said.

Eighth grader Preston Domercant, president of the school's National Junior Honor Society chapter, also spoke.

"St. Mary's has become a second home to me," said Preston, who has attended St. Mary's since he was three. "St. Mary's is a welcoming community that promotes diversity, respect, and kindness."

Each donor got to take home a collage of student drawings of birds, representing the students flocking together.