When parents begin to “shop” their options in private schools, value is sure to enter the conversation. But it’s not just monetary value. Parents whose children attend Our Lady of Mercy (OLM) Catholic School in Winston-Salem are also proud of the values-based education their students receive.
While its competitive tuition is indeed a value of its own, OLM also pledges to offer students a firm foundation for life, while striving to educate these young people on many levels: spiritually, intellectually, emotionally, socially, creatively and physically. With an enrollment of 210 students ranging from Pre-K to eighth grade, the school is a diverse community whose focus on values is also intertwined with faith.
“Our faculty members are dedicated to not only their jobs as teachers, but to their students,” says Lara Davenport, an OLM parent and the school’s Director of Advancement. ““They inspire their students to be compassionate, well rounded, life-long learners who know they are loved and have a purpose to serve in our world.” Lara also stresses to prospective parents that if they are equally as concerned about the kind of person their child will grow up to be as they are about what career path he or she will choose, then OLM is a school worth considering.
“It was an easy decision when we visited Mercy for the first time,” says parent Karen Simon. “We saw something that was missing from other schools, which was the complete package. The education provided goes beyond just books; it speaks to the child as a whole. The school’s principles focus on strengthening core values, nurturing our children and setting a foundation that includes faith, love and responsibility. It was, by far, the best ‘value’ for the level of education provided.”
When it comes to academics, the school offers a rigorous curriculum that follows state standards; however it is not limited to those standards. Cross-curricular learning is a large part of the plan. For example, in the eighth grade, social studies, religion, literature, writing and technology are all brought together during the study of World War II. This lesson is followed by their annual trip to Washington, DC, where they experience the WWII Memorial and Holocaust Museum to tie everything together.
Students at OLM do take traditional standardized tests but the results are often used in a different manner than those in the public school system. “We take standardized tests but we have a completely different philosophy on how we use them,” says Lara. “We don’t teach to a test. Our students take the tests six weeks into the school year and we use the results as a diagnostic tool. In this way, our teachers can get a very clear picture of each student’s strengths and weaknesses to help them achieve as much as they possibly can.”
Critical thinking skills are taught early on and by middle school, students are working to write a thesis of their own and participating in Model United Nations, where they analyze world issues with thoughtfulness and compassion.
Current parent Kim Vargas notes that other schools she considered for her child did not seem to make the values that were most important to her family a top priority. “Our Lady of Mercy offered a rigorous academic program, yet the religious education and lessons of compassion and kindness which are taught were equally as important to us,” she says. “When I toured the school it became apparent to me that this school was much more than just an educational institution.”
Parent involvement is also at the heart of the school’s success, and parents are found around campus every single day, assisting teachers in the classroom; driving for field trips; monitoring lunch and recess, so that teachers can enjoy monthly fellowship with each other; and working tirelessly on fundraising efforts that benefit the entire school family.
“Our parents also help one another—in times of joy, like when a new baby is born, and in times of trouble, such as an illness or death in the family,” says Lara. “Families of our students become one larger family—our Mercy family—and you can’t put a price on that.”
A Blue Ribbon School of Excellence, Our Lady of Mercy Catholic School is located at 1730 Link Road in Winston-Salem. For more information, call 336-722-7204 or visit their website at ourladyofmercyschool.org