Five St. Elizabeth High School students spend week helping at Nativity Prep and their own school
WILMINGTON — For some, the July 4 holiday kicked off a week at the beach, while for others, it meant just four days in the office. But for a group of St. Elizabeth High School students, it was a day of rest before getting to work.
Five boys from St. Elizabeth – four rising seniors and one junior – took part in the school’s annual week of service July 5-9. In past years, the students have spent that time in the Germantown section of Philadelphia, but this year, they stayed close to home, completing projects at St. Elizabeth and neighboring Nativity Prep.
At St. Elizabeth, the boys renovated the faculty room, while the work at Nativity included turning part of a locker room into a storage facility, painting the science classroom and sprucing up the entry space. The days were long, beginning with breakfast at their living quarters at the St. E Center and ending after midnight with lights out. Prayer was also an integral part of the experience, said St. Elizabeth science teacher Jordan Ashby, part of the St. Elizabeth campus ministry team who has been working on the week of service for several summers.
“We like to make sure we’re doing not just the service aspect but the communal aspect as well,” he said. “We’ve certainly been working them hard, but we’ve been having a pretty good time as well.”
He and religious studies teacher Mark Winterbottom made breakfast and dinner each morning, and they were active in the projects at each school. Winterbottom has connections to the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, who operate Nativity, which is how the students ended up working there. Oblate Father Brian Zumbrum, who is moving from the staff at Nativity to Salesianum School this summer, was thrilled with the offer to help.
“(Winterbottom) knows the school, he knows the mission. So he reached out and asked if there was any possibility of getting any work done over the summer,” Father Zumbrum said. “I always have a running list of facility projects that only happen when people have the time and talents to make it happen.
“It’s awesome. They’re great guys, and I’ve been very grateful for their presence.”
With the summer sun beating down outside, the students were grateful for the opportunity to help inside. Angelo Tuono said St. Elizabeth emphasizes the need for its students to make a difference in the community.
“I thought it would be a very good experience for me,” he said. “I knew I would be with people I knew from school. I think it’s a very collaborative idea, a very good experience. At St. Elizabeth, we’re pretty much dedicated to connect with our community.”
Tuono said he has accompanied his father a few times to do home-improvement work, so he has some experience in this area. Plus, he wasn’t too busy to make the time commitment.
His classmate, Nik Hunter, said it was a good opportunity to spend time with his schoolmates — in addition to Tuono, the other Vikings who volunteered were Joey Pritchard, Michael Naughton and Jim Furlong — while helping both schools. He said it was a bit strange in the high school, “like a ghost town. There’s nobody there.”
“I think it’s a great opportunity. It’s going to help everybody that goes to my school,” he said.
Ashby said the decision to stay home for the week of service this year turned out to be a positive. The students are helping people they know, and some Nativity students usually attend St. E’s for high school. And the results are very apparent.
“They can see the effects after. I think will be nice for them to see the rewards,” he said.