Tag Archives: education

FOP Lodge 5 supplemental college scholarship selection process

 

Education has always been important to me. During my nearly three-decade career as a member of the Philadelphia Police Department, I was able to attend college, obtaining both an Associates Degree at the Community College of Philadelphia and a Bachelor’s Degree from Saint Joseph’s University.

That dedication to education extended to my career. I have always maintained and continue to feel that continuing and advanced education is important for police officers. My last decade as an active officer was spent as a teacher with the PPD’s Advanced Training Unit.

I have been honored to serve on the Scholarship Committee for the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #5 for all three years since the program was first instituted. The four-person committee met earlier this week to select the seven scholarship winners for this year.

Each year, the FOP awards $10,000 spread across seven college scholarships, two in the amount of $2,500 and five in the amount of $1,000 each.

These scholarships go to high school students who will be entering college in the fall. The applicants all have FOP Lodge #5 relatives either active, retired, or deceased.

The quality of the applicants was strong in Year One back in 2016, and the selection process was difficult. The number of applicants has risen each year since, growing from about a dozen and a half in that first year to two dozen last year, and then this year with more than 40 applying. The quality of those applicants has not dropped off.

Needless to say, it was not an easy task to whittle down these tremendous students. But that is the job, and I take that job seriously. It is my opinion from sitting in on the selection meeting that the other members of the committee take it seriously as well.

When we go through the application packages, we have little clue as to the race, or the religious or ethnic background of those applicants. Our only hint as to sex is usually their first name. These things are never a consideration in the evaluation process.

The applicants were all asked to supply an application form with some basic information. They were also advised to include high school grade transcripts, extra-curricular activities (both school and other), college acceptance letters, and recommendations from teachers and other influencers.

They are also asked to write a brief essay describing themselves, what they hope to get out of their college experience, and how they hope to help their community in the future.

The vast majority of the applicants have great transcripts. They are mostly ‘A’ students with a history of academic success that has continued to the present.

That successful academic profile often becomes the first step in separating the applicants for me. The discipline that it takes for a young person to succeed in their school work when faced with so many distractions in today’s modern world is impressive when found.

Unfortunately, some applicants provide nothing more than the basic application. That is unfortunate, as an incomplete or “lesser” overall package is going to likely be a separator as well.

The best applicants for me, those who make it down to my final grouping, have it all: strong academic transcripts, community/activity involvement, adult recommendations, and an interesting essay.

Even then, I still went to the committee selection meeting having a dozen kids who I had difficulty separating from one another. I had gotten my personal selections down to a ‘top group’ of four, and then a secondary group made up of another eight students.

That is where the committee discussion process comes in to play. We all begin to compare our names and notes, and start to kick around some of the “positives” that we found raised some of those applicants above the others.

It is fairly amazing to me, at least over these first three years, how the committee members have frequently found many of the same names rising to the top of our individual lists. Getting to the seven overall scholarship winners is pretty much a process of finding those kids who stood out to all of us.

The discussion of which kids will receive the two higher valued $2,500 awards is usually a bit more detailed. We frequently will explore and discuss their essays and adult recommendations, looking for interesting experiences that touched us in some way.

In addition to seeing the quality of the kids, these first three years on the Scholarship Committee have been highlighted for me by the cooperation among the committee members. There have been no arguments or other controversies in our meetings or discussions.

Another important point: the FOP itself has no input whatsoever into who will receive a scholarship. No one from the FOP Lodge #5, not President John McNesby or any other officer, has ever approached me to make a “recommendation” or to try and influence the selection process in any way. It is my opinion, based on our meetings and discussions, that no one else on the committee has ever been so influenced.

I am not naming the 2018 scholarship award winners here at this time. That is not my place, as the FOP will make those announcements public at a time that they feel is most appropriate. The scholarship selectees will be honored as part of an FOP awards ceremony in late May.

Note that I called them “selectees” and not “winners” – that was intentional. It’s not that they aren’t winners, these kids most certainly can be described in that way. But the fact is that every single applicant is a winner as far as I am concerned. The same can be said for the parents who are raising these talented and impressive young people.

Applications for the 2019 FOP Lodge #5 scholarships are scheduled to open in September or October. Those applications will be accepted until a deadline, which usually comes the following February. Pay attention to the website, the Peace Officer magazine, and other notices.

Importantly, if your student intends to apply next year, please guide them through the process. Make sure that they turn in more than a simple application form, and that their package stands out.

Get those transcripts together, especially including their most recent grades. Get a few recommendations from teachers and adults running the businesses and programs they have been participating with as a volunteer or activity participant. Make sure they understand that their essay reflects their education, but also their passion and maturity.

Good luck to anyone who chooses to participate in the program into the future. This is a program that I believe is important, and one that I hope and believe will grow in both the amount and number of scholarships offered. Congratulations to those who will be honored next month, and who have been honored in the previous two years as well.

Sunday Sermon: Are Catholic Schools ‘Better’ Than Public?

Embed from Getty Images

 

See to it that no one captivate you with an empty, seductive philosophy according to human tradition, according to the elemental powers of the world and not according to Christ” ~ St. Paul’s Letter to the Colossians (New Testament, Colossians 2:8)

It’s a question that does not have a simple answer: are Catholic schools “better” than public schools here in the United States?

You will hear and read many Catholic school parents and students make the claim that they are indeed better in every way.

But you can also find many proponents of the American public school system who will claim that there is nothing inferior about the education they provide.

There have been a number of formal studies made on the issue. Mai Miksic with the CUNY Institute for Public Policy took on the question in his June 2014 piece “Is the ‘Catholic School Effect’ Real“?

Miksic’s piece concludes that “there is no lack of rigorous research…indicating a possible Catholic school advantage.”

However, Miksic also correctly points out that many proponents of Catholic schools point to simplistic statistics such as higher standardized test score results achieved by their students.

Education is, in the end, about much more than test scores.
And a system that works for one student is not necessarily going to work for another. One thing that we know about our kids is that they are not cookie cutter products.

No matter what argument that you want to make for or against Catholic schools, there is one area of education that is far greater in those institutions. One area that the vast majority of Americans agree upon.

In a June 2016 survey by the Gallup organization, a full 89% of Americans said that they believe in God. If given the choice of “not sure”, the figure remains overwhelmingly high at 79% who are believers.

In research conducted by the respected Pew Research Center, their “Religion Landscape Study” found that over 70% of Americans today still identify as Christian.

If your kids attend Catholic school, they are going to learn about God, about Jesus Christ, and about a whole host of other Christian ideas.

Gaining a respect for the truth that God exists is vital for a child’s appreciation of his or her special place in the world. Learning the teachings of Jesus Christ in a proper setting provides an introduction to foundational principles to guide them through life.

Public schools in today’s America are allowed to teach about religions, but they are not permitted to teach religion. They begin from the false premise that all religions are the same or equal, and that to teach one as more “true” than others is prejudicial at best, and simple indoctrination to fantasy at worst.

This is not the way that it always has been here in America. There was a time – a long, long time – when teaching the precepts of the Christian faith was a vital part of every American child’s education.

Only in the previous century, when so-called progressives began to gain control of American academic institutions and made inroads into the court systems of our country, was God largely banished from public classrooms.

No matter what is taught in schools, a sound religious home life is important for children. It is the parents responsibility to educate their kids from the youngest age. That education must include a strong faith component.

We all come to our faith at different times and in different ways. Despite my own Catholic education through the entirety of grade school, high school, and even college, my faith was not an important part of my life until recent years.

There are no guarantees. Just because your child attends Catholic schools does not mean that they will become a model citizen. It does not mean that they will automatically make all good choices, that they will never sin.

It certainly does not mean that they are “better” than kids who attended public schools.

But on the whole, the numbers don’t lie. Your kids are generally going to be better and more fully educated at a Catholic school.

National test scores, high school graduation rates, college acceptance and attendance, and a variety of other educational areas all favor a Catholic education for your kids.

There is, of course, a cost for this education. Catholic schools are not free.

Tuition is high in many cases. That can be a challenge for many families who would, except for this one major drawback, prefer to send their kids to Catholic schools.

This is one reason that school choice is such an important issue, and that the area of school vouchers is such an important one for folks to educate themselves on.

This is the beginning of Catholic Schools Week. The theme this year is “Catholic Schools: Communities of Faith, Knowledge, and Service.”

All during the week, schools and parishes across the country will be involving their students and communities with activities in this theme.

If you are the parents of a child preparing for their school years, or the parents of a child who is currently attending public school, take the time to look into the possibilities offered by your local Catholic school.

I have personally had the experience of attending Catholic schools, and of sending my children to both Catholic and public schools. There have been good and bad experiences at both. In my opinion, the good of the Catholic school experience far outpaces the alternative.

Low times for Catholic Highs

North Catholic students in 1954 during the school’s heyday

 

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia announced the other day that two of its long time iconic high schools, North Catholic and Cardinal Dougherty, would be closing at the end of the current school year.

Reaction from students and their families at the two schools, each of which had once held the distinction of being the largest Catholic high school for boys by attendance in the world, as well as from alumni of the two schools, came swift and strong.

Many of the students had dreamed of graduating from North and Dougherty, some of these students as ‘legacies’ who were the sons and grandsons of alumni. The loss of the schools would break family traditions stretching back for generations.

There would also be day-to-day changes for the students, such as travel arrangements to new schools and trying to fit in socially at an entirely new environment.

For alumni, the issues included the loss of tradition and a perceived elimination of a large slice of their own teenage memories. These former students and graduates had walked the ‘hallowed halls’ at North and Dougherty. They had competed for the sports teams, participated in the clubs, attended the religious services, and got their groove on at the dances and proms.

When North Catholic opened in 1926 it enrolled approximately 450 students. By the post-World War II years the school enrollment had swelled to more than 4,000 young men. By 1953, that enrollment had grown over 4,700 students, and North Catholic was recognized as the largest Catholic high school for boys in the entire world. It was a slow downhill from there as far as attendance figures.

By the late-1970’s, with North Catholic celebrating its 50th anniversary, total attendance had fallen to about 2,700 students. The total dropped below the 2,000 mark by the early 1980’s.

Though there are now approximately 40,000 alumni of North Catholic high school, the actual 2008 attendance had plummeted to just 750 total students.

The story is similar at Cardinal Dougherty, which opened in 1956. By the 1960’s, Dougherty enrollment had swelled past the 6,000 mark as the school took over the title of largest Catholic boys school in the world. But attendance plunged in the same way it would over at North. By 2008, there were just 784 total students at Dougherty.

When you consider these figures, it is really not that hard to figure out why buildings and facilities originally created to hold between 4,000-6,000 students and now held a little more than 700 each could not continue.

But many students and alumni are placing the blame elsewhere. The rise in tuition costs. The cost of legal defense for Catholic priests accused and convicted in the sex abuse scandals.

Sadly, these Catholics are completely missing the real reasons why enrollment has plunged to the point that schools need to be closed.

For the America of the ‘Baby Boomer’ years during the two decades immediately following World War II, the Catholic Church was a major institution and a concrete part of family life. Families were still together, and many of those were large and thriving.

Divorce was almost unheard of at that time, and a typical Catholic family would have four or five children or more. These kids grew up to attend the neighborhood Catholic elementary and high schools as a matter of course.

Tuition in the 1960’s was approximately $200-250 per student at most Catholic high schools in Philadelphia. Today those figures have risen into the thousands, in some cases to more than $10,000 per year.

Of course, people who earned a salary of $5,000 per year back in the 1960’s are now making $50,000 in those same jobs today. Few people ever consider this fact when harping on tuition rises. The fact of the matter is that costs have soared for most of the same inflationary reasons that salaries have soared over the past five decades.

Catholic schools have an additional burden in that they continue to provide the best educational opportunities and resources. That includes the quality of teachers, facilities, programs, and the overall learning environment.

The cost of providing that quality is, however, now spread out over hundreds of students rather than the thousands of students attending the schools in earlier generations.

There is one major reason for all of the problems that leading to not only the anticipated closings of North Catholic and Cardinal Dougherty high schools here in Philadelphia, but also to closings and mergers of other Catholic elementary and high schools in recent years.

This one major reason also applies to the merger of my own alma mater, St. John Neumann boys high school in South Philly, with St. Maria Goretti girls high school back in 2004.

That one major reason is that Catholic families simply have fallen down on the job.

Catholic families began to have fewer and fewer children, to the point now where most Catholic families have approximately two children rather than the half dozen or more kids that was common a half century ago.

Reproductive demographics is only a part of the problem,  just a symptom of the bigger problem that I personally believe is spiritual in nature. Catholic families have not drifted away from the Church over the decades, they have sprinted away.

According to the results of a Gallup Poll released in April of 2009, attendance at Catholic churches has leveled off at approximately 45% after falling slightly below that figure in the immediate aftermath of the priest abuse scandals. In 1955 that figure had been a full 75% attendance for weekly Mass services.

The fact was, if you were a Catholic in our grandparents day, you went to Mass on Sunday – it was obligatory. The sad fact today seems to be that people take Mass attendance far too casually.

Also, where in those previous decades the idea of divorce was almost unheard of, today approximately 21% of Catholic Americans have been through a divorce according to religioustolerance.org figures.

The combination of the deterioration of Catholic family size, structure, and practice is at its core a spiritual problem.

Many Catholics have become more self-centered, more materialistic, more cynical and more willing to surrender to or flee from the problems posed by evil in the world rather than standing by their faith and fighting back. They have fled to other Christian denominations, or to no religious practice whatsoever, and have taken their smaller families along with them.

It is easy for people who want to assign blame, whether it be in the current struggles of the Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia or in any other area of life, to point at others. There may even be some validity to such accusations. But those same people need to sincerely look themselves in the mirror and ask some hard questions of the person looking back at them.

Do you go to Mass every week, or at least most weeks? Do you make it a priority for you and your family? Do you receive the Sacraments, especially Communion, but also including Confession/Penance?

Are you committed to your family, and especially if a young Catholic, are you committed to growing that family in number and raising your children as strong Catholics?

Did you, do you, or will you send your children to Catholic schools? Do you find a way to support the Church outwardly and proudly despite the shortcomings of some of its leadership?

If you can look yourself in the mirror and answer all of these questions positively, then congratulations, you are not really a part of the problem. But unfortunately you are also not in the majority of American Catholic families over the past few decades.

The answer to the problems which are now requiring the closings of North Catholic and Cardinal Dougherty, that required the merger of Neumann and Goretti, and that have required the closings and mergers of other Catholic elementary and high schools can be found within ourselves, not in protest or in demonstrations.

We the people who make up the body of the Church need to return to our basic fundamentals of faith, prayer, and support for the Catholic Church. If we are not willing to do that, then more and more Catholic schools will meet the same fate in future years.

The official school motto at North Catholic is “Tenui Nec Dimittam” which translates to “What I have, I will not lose” which should be taken on as the new motto of all Catholics in Philadelphia and all across the United States of America.

Two million minutes

Embed from Getty Images

That is how long the typical student the world over will spend in their high school careers – two million minutes. Four years in the students life – do the math (assuming you know how.)

It is also the name of a documentary film that asks a simple thought-provoking question that you might think you can answer easily: Can your high school Junior or Senior measure up to the 10th grade proficiency standards of the Third World?

Two Million Minutes” is a breakthrough film from Executive Producer Robert A. Compton, directed by Chad Heeter, written and produced by Adam Raney from Compton’s original idea.

In the story line, the priorities and pressures of six students from different parts of the world are examined.

There are two from Carmel, Indiana representing typical American students. Neil Ahrendt is an 18-year old senior class president and National Merit Award semi-finalist. Brittany Brechbuhl is a 17-year old who is in the top 3% of her graduating class who wants to become a doctor.

Also in the film are a pair of students from Bangalore, India. Rohit Sridharan is a 17-year old young man who is seeking acceptance into an elite Indian engineering school. Apoora Uppala is a 17-year old girl who aims to become an engineer, which she believes is the safest profession in her home country.

And finally we have two young people from Shanghai, China as well. Hu Xiaoyuan is a 17-year old girl who plays violin, hopes to study biology, and has applied for early admission to Yale University here in the States. Jin Ruizhang is a 17-year old boy who competes in international math tournaments and wants to continue studying advanced math in college.

The film also features commentary from folks such as Cal-Berkely professor and former U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, physicist and RPI president Shirley Ann Jackson, 12-term congressman and Chairman of the US House Committee on Science and Technology Bart Gordon, Harvard economist Richard Freeman, and a number of others.

How much time have you spent actually supervising your kids homework, study habits, school attendance and performance? How much emphasis do you give in your home to the importance of your child’s formal education?

How much have you evaluated the quality and content of the education that they are actually receiving at your neighborhood school, and evaluated any options of choice in schools that you may have available if you find it lacking?

The fact is that students in the United States, world leaders for generations, have fallen behind their counter-parts in many nations, and continue to fall further behind each year.

A wide variety of factors are behind this decline in competitiveness, including poor parental guidance, misplaced priorities of students, and liberal educational objectives.

If you don’t think that it’s important for our children to be able to compete on a global scale in an increasingly shrinking world, then you are selling their future prospects short.

These are things that I never fully appreciated as my girls were growing up: you just sent them to the best school that you could, tried to make sure they behaved themselves and generally did their work, and hoped for the best at that point from the school itself.

That is simply not enough in today’s world. It never was, and I realize only now that it is the lazy man’s way out.

American parents need to begin to re-emphasize formal education, and need to ensure that their children specifically are receiving the highest possible level of education, particularly in the areas of math and science.

If you find that your school doesn’t measure up to your increased standards, and you simply cannot afford any other option, then you need to find a way to personally supplement their formal education in these areas.

A good beginning for you would be to visit the website and by eventually seeing the film “Two Million Minutes” for yourself. If you have young kids for whom its not too late to make a difference, you won’t regret it. More importantly, neither will they.

Making middle-aged academic progress

 

I received some nice news in the mail yesterday, notification that I was named to the Dean’s List at Saint Joseph’s University for the Spring 2008 term.

You get named to the list for being a senior and maintaining at least a 3.50 GPA. Right now in the summer term, I am attending a Sociology class that is my next-to-last class work.

In the fall term, will have one more Sociology that will be my final class. That will finally earn me my Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice.

My current GPA is over 3.90, with only three A- grades keeping me from that perfect 4.0 over the years.

About five years ago at this time someone finally got through to me regarding the importance of going after my formal education, even in my 40’s. I had been putting it off for over two decades.

I had been set to attend LaSalle University here in Philadelphia when I first graduated from high school back in 1979. However, my high school girlfriend and I got pregnant, and I went out to work instead.

I had two beautiful daughters and a career in banking that lasted over a decade. Neither that career or the marriage lasted.

After joining the Philadelphia Police Department in 1990, learning and enjoying the police career was my life. And then, I met my wonderful wife and got married in 1995.

School was something that always remained a regret in my mind. I actually got to the point where I put it down, publicly taking the position that it wasn’t really important for someone to succeed in life.

Again, someone finally got through to me. That someone was anonymous on a message board, which is something that I absolutely hate, anonymity in posting on the web. But whatever that person said, it got to me.

So, for the past five years I have gone to night school. First to the Community College of Philadelphia, and now for the past two years at St. Joe’s.

Making the Dean’s List and being set to graduate next spring has made all the time, money, and work feel very worthwhile.

So thanks to that anonymous poster. Thanks to CCP and St. Joe’s for the opportunities. Thanks to the PPD for their relationship with those educational institutions.

If any of you are friends or family members, or even other cops or adults outside of the law enforcement profession, and you have been putting this or some other opportunity off because you feel it simply has passed you by, don’t do that.

Don’t sell yourself short. Go for it. You can do whatever you really decide to set your mind to accomplish. The important thing is to get started, and don’t give up or take a break until you reach your goal.

For me, now I have an alma mater (almost), and a Philly Big Five college that I can point to at tournament time with pride and say “The Hawk Will Never Die!