Avery Pollock carefully shaded the edges of a large yellow pencil and a wide red apple on the sidewalk in front of St. Gertrude School in Krakow. Selecting a bright blue piece of chalk next, she wrote, “Welcome back, teachers and students!”
Avery was among students, parents and teachers who “chalked the walk” at St. Gertrude School on the eve of the first day of school, writing encouraging messages on the sidewalks to greet everyone upon arrival the next morning.
An incoming seventh grader, Avery is most looking forward this year to spending time with her “little buddy,” a kindergarten student whom she will be paired with for Mass and activities. “When I was a little buddy, it was nice to have somebody to look up to. So I hope my little buddy feels the same way about me,” she said.
On the sidewalk square next to Avery, her mother, Natalie Pollock, chalked one of her favorite Bible verses: “Whatever you do, do it with all your heart” (Colossians 3:23).
“It’s a reminder for not only my kids, but all the other students — as long as we’re all kind to each other and treat each other with love, it’s going to be a great year,” said Pollock, an alumna of St. Gertrude School.
Chalk the Walk started last year. The students’ and teachers’ excitement as they were greeted by the messages made it a no-brainer to continue the tradition this year, said Rachel Jacquin, a school parent and vice president of the home and school association.
“We have such a good community here, and that translates down into the kids,” Jacquin said.
Jill Rees, a St. Gertrude kindergarten teacher, wrote a message for her own three children. She started as the preschool director at St. Gertrude before moving to kindergarten and loves the chance to share her faith and help the students grow throughout the year.
“We talk about God; I teach about God. That’s number one,” she said. “And (my students) love it — they love talking about God, they love going to
church…And seeing where they start the year to where they end is just crazy, how much they learn within that nine months.”
St. Patrick School in Wentzville kicked off the first day on Aug. 15 with an all-school Mass. The school’s theme for the year is “Our faith can move mountains,” inspired by Matthew 17:20.
Father Brian Fischer, pastor of St. Patrick, explained to students that Aug. 15 also is the solemnity of the Assumption of Mary.
“(Mary) was so trusting in God and God’s plan for her, that she was always open
to what the Father wanted for her,” Father Fischer said in his homily. “As we start the school year, we need to realize that in every decision we make, we can either choose to follow Jesus or not. We can choose to be a living tabernacle of Jesus, to carry Him to every relationship, every game we play, everything we learn, or not.”
Mary’s “yes” to God made it possible for Jesus to come down to Earth and bring salvation to the world, he continued. Just like Mary, God wants us to be with Him in heaven someday.
“Just think, if Mary could do that by herself — if her faith could change the course of the world — how much could we, the 500-plus of us
gathered here today?” he said. “If our faith is lived so powerfully, we can also truly change the course of the world, to make ourselves disciples of Jesus who follow Him.”
Students and staff at St. Cecilia School and Academy in south St. Louis returned on Aug. 14 to start the year under the theme “Be the hands and feet of Jesus.”
“(We) selected this theme at the end of year last year to have a focus on service,” principal Emily Roth said. “Last year, our theme was kindness, and this theme builds upon that.”
St. Cecilia is introducing new leadership opportunities for students this year, including new student ambassador roles and a mentorship program pairing older students with younger students, as well as more opportunities for the Student Council to plan events and give feedback on school policies.
Roth is also looking forward to welcoming more families and visitors to campus after pandemic-related limitations in previous years, she said.
“It was a rush of beautiful energy on the first day of school,” she said. “The joy and peace evident on students’ faces to be back ‘home’ at school was such a blessing.”