Everyone knows the “Three Rs” of education are Reading, wRiting, and aRithmetic. Of course, when looking for a school for my children, I wanted to find a place that is strong academically. However, those aren’t the only “Rs” in which I was interested during the search for my children’s school, where they would grow and learn to thrive as young people in this evolving world. Respect, Responsibility, Restraint, and Resilience were other “Rs” on my list, helping to guide my children to discover their moral compass, along with high academic standards.
As a “National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence,” Our Lady of Mercy School is a diverse community that excels in academic excellence. Beginning with the youngest students, the pre-kindergarten is the only fully licensed 5-star Catholic Pre-K in the Triad. The lower school has teaching assistants in the classrooms to promote learning with low student-to-teacher ratios. More than sixty percent of the current 4th- to 8th-graders have qualified for the Duke Tip program, which gives students scoring higher than 95% on subsets of a national standardized test the chance to further their academic success with summer learning programs. Students have the opportunity to be on track for algebra 1 in the eighth grade, setting them up for higher-level math classes in high school. They have a fully functional science lab, an art facility, a technology lab, and also have music and Spanish in the regular curriculum, beginning in Kindergarten. After going through the eighth grade, the students leaving OLM can boast of some of the highest writing scores in the area when entering high school. That is evidenced by a yearly writing exam given to 4th- and 7th-graders, in which more than 90% of last year’s 7th-graders scored above the diocese mean. Growing up in a world where mediocrity is commonplace, I love that every Mercy child is encouraged to shoot for the top!
With all of these academic accolades, Our Lady of Mercy caught my attention as a prospective parent, but I also wanted a school to feed my children’s character. I wanted a school that would partner with us as parents to reinforce character traits during the largest part of their day. When I took my first tour of the school, a well-spoken eighth grader led me through the school, politely pointing out the school’s many virtues. I witnessed courteous first graders quietly filing down the hallway for one of their many specials. The teachers and administration expect basic etiquette and respect, which I didn’t always see in other schools I toured. Since beginning at OLM, I have witnessed my son gain confidence in public speaking and politely engage in conversation with teachers and other adults who we see during summer vacation or around the area. He and his friends regularly hold the door for people, or are courteous enough to let the grown-ups and smaller children go first. These acts may seem insignificant to some people, but this increased sense of self and of personal restraint seem to be a rarity in other circles of pre-teens I witness. My daughter needed an atmosphere that would feed her creativity, but wouldn’t let her slide with her academic expectations. The teachers lovingly expect the students’ very best effort and most precise work, holding the students responsible and letting them fail when that is needed. When they are young is the time to let them learn to recover from the literal and figurative “skinned knee,” creating a resilience to carry them forward during the tougher times in life.
When asked what parents want most for their children, far too many people jump to the word “happiness.” Of course, I want happiness for my children, but happiness comes through a sense of self-worth and resilience, learning that failure can be an avenue to greater learning and understanding of self and the world around us. I most want my children to be resilient in life, to look at each misstep as an opportunity to further self-reflection and learning. These are the traits that Our Lady of Mercy is helping my kids develop as they grow into well-respected, loving young people with a knowledge that the world can bring us together.
Our Lady of Mercy educates with a moral purpose to serve others and helps the students develop leadership skills in a safe and disciplined environment. Our family is not Catholic; the school is part of a Catholic community that is welcoming to families of all faith backgrounds. This has opened dialogue in our family about acceptance and different belief systems. The mission at OLM is to develop and honor each student spiritually, intellectually, emotionally, socially, creatively, and physically. Guided by Catholic beliefs, the diverse community invites each child to live and serve in a changing society as a self-respecting and responsible citizen.
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