Something remarkable is happening at St. Joseph Catholic School on the island of St. Croix.
N’Kayla is one of 16 students that made up the school’s 2019 senior class. All 16 of them graduated. All 16 of them went on to college.
The achievement of N’Kayla’s class is uplifting by any standards—nationally, about 70 percent of high school students go on to college—but when contrasted with the difficult conditions N’Kayla and her classmates face on the U.S. Virgin Islands, this success becomes even more exceptional.
In the Diocese of St. Thomas, which encompasses the Virgin Islands, people endure the hardships of both a fragile economy and frequent natural disasters. In a place where resources are extremely scarce, Catholic schools not only bring students greater economic opportunity through improved career options, but also give them a strong spiritual foundation to face life’s difficulties on the island.
Catholic Schools: A source of hope and opportunity
The Catholic schools in USVI face many challenges: financial deficits, a big pay gap between teacher salaries for public and Catholic schools, and students leaving the islands for college and not returning.
But despite setbacks, these Catholic schools provide an enormous source of hope and pride for the students and their families.
“I’m so grateful for my Catholic education, which I couldn’t get anywhere else on the island,” N’Kayla said. “It not only prepares me for college, but I’ve learned values and aspects of my faith that I wouldn’t be exposed to otherwise.”
Funding the education of tomorrow’s Catholics
In 2017, hurricanes destroyed or closed most schools on the island.
Many Catholic schools quickly reopened, thanks in part to emergency funding provided by Catholic Extension donors. N’Kayla’s recalled that her damaged school was one of the first to reopen. They welcomed other non-enrolled students to attend. “We opened even without any electricity,” she said.
Sandra Miranda Maynard, principal of St. Joseph High School, said Catholic school offers students a safe place to study, build community, and inspire students to do big things and serve others.
“We are a Christ-centered school based on gospel values and, and at the same time, our students are highly motivated to get good grades,” Maynard said. “We want to teach mind, body and soul.”
Catholic Extension’s donors have helped support the unique needs of the Catholic communities on the island since the 1960s. With your help, we can continue to make quality faith formation available the next generation.