Members of the Class of 2023 presented their social justice service-learning projects to a standing-room only audience during the 2023 Capstone Symposium.
Using the Seven Themes of Catholic Social Teaching as inspiration, students researched and explored ways to use their God-given brilliance to actively love God and their neighbor.
The Capstone projects covered a diverse range of subjects including caring for and protecting the dignity of the elderly, immigrants, those with disabilities, and children in the foster system, as well as supporting the mental health and physical needs of people in our community and school. They involved building relationships with organizations such as the Ken Anderson Alliance, Hamilton County Developmental Disabilities Services, Anthology of Anderson Township, the Freestore Foodbank, St. Joseph Catholic Worker House, IN5, and Kingswood Home for Children.
Senior Lily Crooker and her group investigated hunger and food insecurity in Cincinnati. Through their research, they learned a staggering number of people in our own city don’t know where their next meal will come from. They partnered with the Freestore Food Bank and St. Joseph Catholic Worker House, packing food boxes, handing out meals, and connecting with the communities they served. The group also worked to establish a relationship between McNicholas and these organizations so the work doesn’t stop once they have graduated.
Lily said, “We learned that time is one of the most valuable things you can give to these organizations. Part of the project was giving our own time but we also put together plans for CREWs or other student organizations to continue volunteering after we all graduate.”
Some groups saw a need within the walls of McNicholas and worked to serve their peers. A group of athletes, including senior Matthew Mitchell, personally experienced the toll competing, training, and maintaining a rigorous academic schedule had taken on their mental health. They worked with Mrs. Melissa Gomez, McNicholas Health and Wellness Counselor, to create Athletes Helping Athletes, a student group designed to give athletes and other highly involved students a space to support each other and gain valuable resources to support their mental health.
Matt said, "This project was very personal for our group and we grew a lot throughout the process. I'm going to be playing baseball in college next year and I feel more equipped now to take on that challenge. I hope I can also have a positive impact on my new team and foster a setting where talking about mental health doesn't carry a stigma of weakness but encourages a collective effort to support each other. ”
The goal of the Capstone Program is to empower students at McNicholas to not only believe the teachings of Christ and values of the Catholic Church, but to live them out beyond their high school years.
Director of Curriculum, Mrs. Emily Materna, who mentored a capstone group working with the Ken Anderson Alliance, said, “As Catholics, our students have always been taught to treat everyone with kindness and respect, but this experience challenged them to practice that teaching and strengthen their values even further. As they stepped outside their comfort zone into unfamiliar settings and situations, they had to rely on their faith in new ways that strengthened them and helped them grow,” Mrs. Materna said.
Capstone Director and Chaplain Fr. Kevin Scalf, C.PP.S. said, "The fruits of our mission were on full display at the Capstone Symposium, and those blessings were affirmed by parents, guests, and colleagues. It's inspiring to see our students working together on topics they are passionate about, so the lives of others may be improved.”
Thank you to Principal David Mueller and Capstone Director Fr. Kevin Scalf for their leadership and support of this program as well as to our mentor team Mike Orlando, Mel Gaskins, Mary Dennemann, Todd Naumann, Paul Romolo, Laura Rupp, Steve Dalton, Jeff Mulvey, Emily Materna, and Maria Schroeder.
And congratulations to all of our Capstone scholars:
May We Help Bike Engineering for Students with Cerebral Palsy by Nate Kouche, Noah Notovny, Matthew Robey, Shawn Roesel, & Alexander Russo
Mentoring and Supporting Young People Through Sports by Michael Cheek, Landon Rupp, Joey Baca, Reid Belmont, and Gage Ores
Care for the Elderly by Danielle Dietz, Rebecca Rose, Kaitlyn Schulte, Autumn Strebel, & Meredith Umstead
Protecting the Dignity of People with Disabilities by Maggie Mulvaney, Audrey Gluck, Bella Bellissemo, Carly Badylak, & Abigail Taylor
Hunger and Food Insecurity in the Cincinnati by Taylor Bolin, Lily Crooker, Maggie Crooker, & Megan Kuhn
Depression and Anxiety in Teenagers by Peter Carroll, Andrew Edwards, Julia Hart, & Sam Noble
Education and Inclusivity for Disabilities in Schools by Reagan Kutcher, Karleen Leibreich, Naomi Preuett, & Caitlyn Voet
Adolescent Athletes and Mental Health by Brady Arnold, Nick Bruns, Adam Carville, Eli Dannemiller, & Matt Mitchell
Issues Surrounding the Foster Care System by Charlotte Ackerman, Rosie Bayer, Ellie Bowman, Kelly Carville, & Isabella Mastruserio
Mental Health Support for Diverse Students by Gwyn Gaunt, Maddy Gundrum, Harlan Mulvey, & Liv Vatter