Written by Mary Beth Peabody
Catholic school might have been a pipe dream for Siobhan McGirl and her three siblings when their father was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis as she entered high school. Instead, the family found a caring extended family and the financial support they needed to stay at Gloucester Catholic High School. At Our Lady of Hope Regional School in Blackwood, McGirl’s younger sister was eligible for tuition assistance as well.
“I would not be the same person I am now,” said McGirl of her high school experience. “Gloucester Catholic came into our lives at a time that was really hard for my family.”
McGirl believes she had opportunities in her Catholic high school that would never have been possible in her township’s large public high school. As a junior, she saw an advertisement at school for the Newstudies student reporter program at KYW in Philadelphia. She applied and was chosen to attend with a classmate. The experience led her to a career in journalism. “I’ve always wanted to share peoples’ stories,” she said.
McGirl also acted in Gloucester Catholic’s plays, attended HOBY and Rotary leadership conferences, became involved in Model United Nations and debate, was a manager on the football team and eventually found a spot on the volleyball team her senior year. “I managed to get a letter,” she said, admitting that volleyball is not her strong suit.
McGirl stressed that her ability to participate in such varied activities was possible because of the school’s smaller size and caring culture. She described her high school experience as individualized and personalized in a family environment, where she was encouraged and led. “The teachers know you and care about you,” she said.
Academically, McGirl found herself well prepared for Seton Hall University, where she studied journalism and continued learning in a faith-based setting. Now a young professional, she hopes other students have the same chance she, her sister and two brothers had, thanks to tuition assistance.
“There are hundreds of kids who are successful, know how to treat people with dignity and think strategically,” she said, referring to fellow Catholic school graduates. “One little opportunity or one vote of confidence can change a kid’s life.”
Debby Boone Concert Supports Students in Need
Performer Debby Boone will take to the stage at Investors Bank Performing Arts Center Saturday, Dec. 2 to raise funds for the South Jersey Scholarship Fund for Catholic Education. All proceeds from the fund are allocated among diocesan elementary and high schools and awarded as need-based scholarships. Support from the fund can help make Catholic school a reality for students like Siobhan McGirl and her siblings.
“We have families who are aching for a Catholic School education but can’t afford it,” said Superintendent of Catholic Schools, Mary Boyle. “Every school works hard with fundraisers, sponsored scholarships, an annual fund campaign, gifts and donations to help offset operating costs and subsidize tuition. The money raised at the concert helps, but it’s divided by more than 30 schools. Our vision is to make Catholic school affordable for any family who wants it. We want to do more.”
While Boone is the evening’s headliner, concert-goers are sure to enjoy an all-star ensemble of performers from South Jersey Catholic high schools. And Bishop Dennis Sullivan is known for delighting audiences with his musical talents as well.
“It’s always a fun night,” said Superintendent Boyle of the annual concert. “We were lucky to be able to book a performer with such broad appeal. I hope people in the community will take advantage of this opportunity to see Debby Boone.”