Heritage Gala to celebrate students, education

"A Pearl of Great Value" is the theme of this year's Heritage Gala, an annual event that celebrates education and benefits students at St. Marys Catholic Elementary and Middle schools. The gala will be held Saturday, April 9 beginning at 5:30 p.m. at the Red Fern in Fox Township. Proceeds benefit the Parent/Teacher Organization (P.T.O.), which has made a $150,000 commitment to the schools' budget. Mary Meyer, the schools' Director of Advancement, said the event is held to recognize and acknowledge students, school employees and those who have worked to support Catholic education in St. Marys. "When we put together the gala, the purpose of it was to celebrate our schools, to celebrate our success, to showcase our students in any way that we could and then to acknowledge our donors, our business sponsors and then give recognition," Meyer said. "It is to advance the mission and celebrate the success of Catholic schools in St. Marys." At the gala, employees will be honored for years of service, and leadership donors and all patrons and business sponsors of the event will be acknowledged. The 2011 Heritage Award, which honors someone living or deceased who has made a substantial impact on Catholic education in St. Marys, will be presented to past and present pastors of the three parishes in St. Marys. "That's why we called it the Heritage Gala, because it's not just the present - we draw from the past and our strength and our tradition comes from the past, because Catholic education has always been such a strong influencing factor in St. Marys, and so that's why we chose the word 'heritage,' and then gala is 'celebration,' so it's a celebration of our heritage," Meyer said. Meyer said this year's theme, a "A Pearl of Great Value," was selected after recollecting the words in a report issued by a team from the The Middle States Association of Colleges and Commission on Elementary Schools when the schools were going through their reaccreditation process in 2007. Part of the report stated, "The St. Marys Catholic Elementary School System is rich in history and steeped in tradition. In many ways, it is that 'pearl of great value' that Matthew speaks about in his Gospel. When the merchant found this fine pearl, he sold all that he had in order to buy it. The commitment of the Catholic community of St. Marys to embrace, nurture, sustain and value their 'pearl' deserves our commendation." Meyer said it was particularly poignant that the schools were recognized in this way by outsiders. "The community here recognizes Catholic education as a pearl of great value, and you nurture and you sustain and you promote and your support your pearl. And to us, of course, the children are our greatest pearls in our system," she said. To celebrate those "pearls," and demonstrate the quality of education they receive, students will make several presentations at the event. "We're showcasing the student's talents," Meyer said. As part of the middle school's Artist in Residency program, students researched St. Marys history and wrote short stories based on that history. At the gala, students will read excerpts from those stories and a mural they created showing different parts of St. Marys life in the past will also be unveiled. The student winner of the comparative literature essay contest on the gala's theme will also be honored, and second grade students and middle school students will perform songs from their spring musicals. The requested RSVP date for the Heritage Galais Wednesday, March 30. Final reservations must be made by Monday, April 4. For more information about the Heritage Gala, contact Meyer at 814-834-1480 or smcessdev@windstream.net.