The giggles of children mingled with the warm, smoky fragrance of BBQ, both wafting toward newcomers at the entrance table. Alumni and AC greeters handed out nametags with wide smiles: “welcome to Fall Fest!!”
St. Catherine’s fall fest was an extra special affair this year, falling on the school’s 50th anniversary. The event had the air of a family reunion – alumni and alumni parents, former faculty and staff, grandparents and current families gathered, and as branches of extended family would, everyone exchanged hugs, updates and reminisces.
Past the welcome tables were beverage stations of herbal tea and basil/citrus spiked water. Following the same path, one came to MC Nuri Nuri’s music and tuition raffle table, which lead out to the grounds by the Adolescent Community, transformed with picnic tables and blankets. The breezeway connecting the AC to the Atrium housed tables groaning beneath a bountiful feast. Harlem Road Texas BBQ catered chicken and parents brought dozens upon dozens of potluck dishes – salads and pastas and veggies and rice alongside BBQ tofu and venison sausage. What to try first? “The hummus,” recommended PSO Chair Mary Tysor with a smile. “Nuri Nuri’s hummus is the first thing that goes. Everyone who’s been here more than a year knows about it!”
Plates laden with food, fingers happily sticky with BBQ, people sat at picnic tables and sprawled on picnic blankets. Some shopped for honey, eggs, soaps and more at the Adolescent Community’s Homegrown Market. Some stopped by the new parent welcome committee’s picnic area to introduce themselves and others shared memories that were recorded for posterity by the Advancement table.
Flocks of elementary children kicked soccer balls, threw footballs, took turns on swings and slides and dangled off climbers under watchful eyes. Older children strolled through the orchard, climbing trees and picking kumquats and figs. Older children also minded the youngest toddlers and primary students in that wonderfully caring way unique to Montessori students who learn to mentor in class.
For those inclined to creative activity, a craft table stocked with fabrics and ribbons invited students to create their own commemorative flags. It was a day of play, of relaxation, celebration, and heartfelt thanks.
“We really have found a great sense of community at St. Catherine’s. We appreciate it and feel so blessed to be here every day,” said Melissa Lopez, a current parent of two students at the school.
Katherine Buchanan, also a parent of two, talked about searching for the right place for her children, “A lot of places were very restrictive. There was a calm and an order in the classes here…very accepting and really appreciative of the child. It’s about learning and loving it.”
Then dessert arrived! No announcement was needed, as a sudden onrush of excited children descended upon boxes of goat milk popsicles from All We Need Farms, an organic farm in Needville, TX, founded by alumni Stacey Roussel. “How do you make popsicles out of goat?” queried a bemused and fascinated young one, while the adults made fast work of parents Michelle Vinson and Rachel Marino’s golden pastries and pound cakes.
Being at school on a Saturday seemed to delight the children. Parent Pedro Garza confided, of his daughter, “She pretty much runs into the school. She has complained why school doesn’t last all day long, the same way as mine when I go to the office.”
As the setting sun cast a golden glow over racing children and picnicking adults, alumni parent Ellen Linbeck said, “Our experience was very positive, very warm. The children here seem to be very kind and at ease talking to adults, more forthcoming with their thoughts and feelings. We’ve been coming for ten years and we’ll keep coming…Our kids have a warm place in their hearts for St. Catherine’s.”
By the end of the night, MC Nuri Nuri’s playlist had people dancing joyously with each other to syncopated salsa rhythms. Parent Service Organization volunteers were clearing up and while the youngest children curled up contentedly on laps and shoulders. Alumni Ian Mann, now a teenager at Emery High School said, “I love St. Catherine’s because in all my time here, it always felt like a home to me. A home away from home.”
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