My social media feeds have been overrun with pro-Bernie and anti-Bernie memes for the past couple of months, so I was surprised to see friends from high school give up on the election stuff and start posting about high school this weekend.
The Most Rev. Lawrence T. Persico, bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Erie, recently decided to close my alma mater, Venango Catholic High School, at the end of the school year. This means one last string of seniors will have their chance to dress in their caps and gowns in the pea-sized chapel.
There will be no more flood of adolescent boys signing their names for “dub nugs” for double chicken nuggets on baked potato bar day. No more drama kids will make memories in the fenced-in prop room overlooking the stage. The black and yellow bleachers that once held proud crowds of spectators chanting “We are VC” will be empty all through late February’s basketball season. The cafeteria will no longer host 500-plus families for fish fries during Lent.
No other baseball or cross country teams will run through the soggy grass of the baseball field. The rosary trail behind the school will probably become overgrown with moss and decaying leaves.
Mrs. Eckert’s English class won’t try and talk over the sound of the janitor’s riding mower running over the massive Oil City hill that holds the school. This year was the last year for all of these things.
The other thing I saw littering social media were petitions to keep the school open. Jessica Nelson, a VC alumna and director of Gannon’s Alumni Association, shared a letter written by Rita M. Gannon that asked the bishop to consider saving my high school.
Students, parents, faculty and alumni of VC are sharing a Facebook page called “Save VCHS” and started a committee to keep the doors open. The announcement wasn’t a huge surprise because the bishop released a preliminary statement in October saying the school would undergo study to determine if it could sustain enrollment to meet the diocesan standard.
Apparently it failed this test. The Sharon Herald said the sole reason VC is closing is “low enrollment.” My graduating class was a whole 17 people, but we still received the quality Catholic education VC has offered since 1962.
One of my classmates is finishing up at the West Point military academy. Another is running a blog while she travels abroad in Ireland through Duquesne University. Latrobe Barnitz, our class salutatorian, is working on his history degree in hopes of becoming a professor.
My uncle, another VC alumnus, received his doctorate in sociology from Washington State University in December. He received his high school diploma 12 years ago, but all these successes were built on VC’s mission statement: building a strong foundation for lifelong achievement rooted in the teachings of Christ.
Allowing VC to shut down will shut down the chances of its students reaching lifelong achievement the way my classmates and uncle did.
Sure, we have small class sizes and more potholes in the parking lot than a road in Cochranton, Pa. Yes, we don’t have the best amenities in the world and half the lockers are empty from lack of use.
The resource VC still has is the ability to prepare students for the rest of their lives. And that’s something even the current freshman class won’t lose if it closes.