Giving back. It's a tradition at Gibbons, especially during Advent when our school community comes together in joyful celebration of Christ's birth at Christmas. There are many ways, big and small, that we prepare for Christmas. They include:
Participating in special prayer services in the school chapel
Celebrating the Mass of the Immaculate Conception
Attending the Christmas Chorus Concert and the Music Festival
Listening to our students caroling in English and Spanish
Enjoying traditions like the blessing of the Advent wreath display
Taking part in seasonal outreach efforts
Those outreach efforts range from the Gibbons school community donating 9,301 pounds of food and $296 for families in Wake County, and giving 10 refurbished desktop computers to students in Honduras, to collecting $43,900 worth of clothes and toys for 89 children, as well as gifts for 12 teachers, as a result of the annual toy and clothing drive. (pictured above)
This year's toy drive total is the highest ever collected in the history of the event, noted Jenifer Cipriano, math educator and moderator of the National Honor Society, which sponsors the drive, an annual Christmas tradition.
Among its newest traditions, Cardinal Gibbons for the last four years has invited parents and friends to attend an Advent Reflection seminar to "read, study, reflect, share and pray" the Infancy Narratives within the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.
For four, sessions on Tuesday evenings in November and December Mark DeLaRosa, Gibbons theology educator, discussed these wonderful accounts of the Nativity Story with the 30 current Gibbons parents, parents of alumni, educators, and friends who registered for the class. Of the seminar, DeLaRosa (right with parents) said: "It is my hope that together all of the participants, including me, will have a better understanding of the original intention of the Infancy Narratives and that will enable us to enter more fully into the Advent and Christmas seasons!"
The seminar did just that for Gibbons parents Kristal and Alan Kypson. "Setting aside this weekly time to really examine Scripture and hear Mr. DeLaRosa teach has been a blessing...," Kristal Kypson said. The class, she added, enabled them to focus their hearts and minds on what is important at this time of year. The couple's daughter, Caroline, is a Gibbons freshman.
Gibbons parent Sue Ann Glower described the seminar as "spiritually enlightening," and said it helped her, "gained a much deeper understanding of the Infancy Narratives of the Gospels of Luke and Matthew..."Her younger daughter, Maria, is a Gibbons senior, and her older daughter, Clare, is a 2011 Gibbons graduate.
Principal Jason Curtis said the Advent Scripture class is a great way for parents the share the same formational opportunities that their children receive at Cardinal Gibbons, as well as a chance for our parent community to grow together in faith. He noted, "It's a blessing to know that our students are learning in an environment that allows them daily to share in the joy of the Advent season, preparing to celebrate the birth of Jesus.The Reflection Series offered by Mr. DeLaRosa and our Theology Department gives parents that same opportunity on campus."
Curtis added, "On behalf of our school community, I'd like to wish all of our students and families continued joy in this Advent season, a restful break, and a Blessed Christmas!"
What difference can one teacher make? Back in September, I wrote about the connection between reading--pleasure reading, especially--and college success. From October through December of this year, English teacher Nicole Herche partnered with the library on a reading project in her classes, and reading at Gibbons has never been better. Book checkouts have at minimum quadrupled over any previous year, in some cases septupled.
And in OverDrive the difference is even more pronounced: an OverDrive representative even contacted the library to see what was going on, having noticed this dramatic data: January through October, 2016, 255 ebooks were borrowed from the OverDrive collection, with 227 of those occuring in the month of October. That's almost ninety percent of the use in one month!
In addition to all this terrific reading, her students also kept reading journals and wrote reviews of the books they read. These reviews now appear in the library's book catalog, where they will be available to students and teachers in years to come.
Thank you, Ms. Herche!
It started as a simple e-mail request to expand opportunities for students to serve the Gibbons school community. It ended with many wonderful new service projects, including the restoration of a huge mural of two recently canonized saints.
The mural, which adorns a wall in the academic wing, not far from Queen of All Saints Chapel, dates to 2000-2001 and is made up of 48 separate photo tiles, each done by a different student. In many ways, the artwork is prophetic.
It captures in vivid black and white imagery, Pope John Paul II and Mother Teresa engaged in an intimate conversation about, one imagines, their work on behalf of the poor and in support of human freedom and dignity, that years later contributed to their being recognized as saints in the Catholic Church. Anna Elizabeth Helton '17, (right) together with a group of current art students, gave new life to the old piece at about the same time Mother Teresa was canonized this fall.
The restoration project was one of many wonderful outcomes the e-mail produced. What better way for students, who are also members of the National Honor Society (NHS), to serve, than to help the school community they love, said NHS moderator and math educator Jennifer Cipriano '04, who sent the e-mail. She also drew one of the mural's squares when she was a Gibbons sophomore.
For their service projects students have, among other activities, helped set up for All-School Masses, and assisted the Environmental Club with a campus cleanup. And when Visual Arts Educator and Fine Arts Department Chair Rebecca Dason asked for help with the hallway mural, Helton rose to the challenge.
"This is a perfect way for students to give back to their school and use their artistic talent," said Dason.
The mural, which measures 8' x 8', was a collaborative project for Art 1 students to learn about drawing and shading using an ebony pencil. Then art instructor Brad Watkins chose a photo, which he did not reveal, cut it into 1" x 1" squares, and gave each student one or more squares. The students were asked to draw the image that appeared on their photo piece(s) on a 12" x 16" sheet of paper and worked collaboratively to put the pieces together, shaping the entire mural and revealing, for the first time, the full image.
The individual photo tiles are held together and fixed onto a thin wooden board by spray glue and covered with poly acrylic. Time and several moves, however, took a toll on the mural, which was peeling in some places and missing pieces in others.
To restore the mural, Helton spent 12 hours, during her lunch period and after school, re-gluing pieces that were peeling, and tracing pieces that were missing, among other tasks. She also asked six Art ll honors students* to redraw the images on the missing pieces, using as their guide, an electronic version of the original photo, which was taken in 1997 by the official Vatican photographer, Arturo Mari.
The students then matched the new pieces with the existing ones that the alums originally drew. To protect the mural moving forward, Gibbons asked Ed McKinnie, facilities maintenance supervisor, to cover it with Plexiglas, preserving the artwork for future generations.
Helton, who has long been interested in art and hopes to minor in it in college, said she volunteered for the project because she viewed it as an opportunity to make an impact and to acknowledge two amazing Catholics.
Principal Jason D. Curtis said the restoration project not only underscores the three tenets of our school's mission – faith, service, and leadership – but it also secures a piece of our school's history, venerates the saints, and honors the work of alums and current students. Curtis added, "I'm so grateful to the students and educators who collaborated to restore the mural, preserving this beautiful art that means so much to our school for future generations of Gibbons students."
*The Art II honors students who helped with the project are:
Isabella Francesca Dalessio-Skare
Kathleen Elizabeth Duffy
Sofia Montserrat Gomez-Ayala
Payton MacKenzie Kaeding
Katarina Elizabeth Kirke
Amy Valentine Lawson