YOUNGSTOWN — Ursuline High School not only navigated the challenges brought on by the pandemic, it has set ambitious goals for this year by expanding its endowments and critical programs in its science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, disciplines.
“The 2021 outlook is positive,” says Carolyn Korenic, director of alumni and advancement at Ursuline. “Our goals included the further growth of our STEM-related programs: Merici Med Prep and the Saint Patrick Engineering Club,” she says.
The Merici Med Prep program, for example, provides increased awareness of career opportunities to students who are interested in the medical field, Korenic says. This program enables students to interact with area medical professionals through an exciting partnership with Mercy Health.
Students are also able to access the expertise of engineers and engineering students through the St. Patrick Engineering Club, which conducts engineering-related labs. The labs, provided by the national nonprofit Engineering Tomorrow, allow students to experience simulations and projects similar to the work of an engineer and to interact with current undergraduate engineering students. Ursuline is the first school in Ohio to participate in the Engineering Tomorrow program, Korenic says.
Ursuline also intends to grow its endowment fund this year, she says. There are currently 116 scholarships, including nine created in 2020.
Over the last four years, Ursuline has invested in several capital improvements including the cafeteria, science classrooms, laboratories, art studio, chapel, distance learning lab, classrooms and weight room/speed room. Ursuline High School plans additional renovation projects this summer including the continuation of new roofing, classroom upgrades including additional central air conditioning.
Still, the greatest source of pride during the 2020-21 academic year is the continued safety and well being of Ursuline’s students, faculty, and staff amid the pandemic, Korenic says.
“We marked the start of our 116th school year with a Safe-Return-To-School Plan,” she says. “After consultation with medical professionals, the local health commissioner and Diocesan officials, we opened for in-person classes, five days a week. Our goal is to continue providing our students with an excellent, academically rigorous Catholic education.”
Backup plans are also in place to pivot to a hybrid model or remote learning should the state of Ohio mandate such measures. Plus, Ursuline adopted new mitigation protocols such as mandatory masks, up and down staircases, daily temperature checks, and plexiglass dividers on cafeteria tables and in classrooms.
Ursuline also initiated a program three years ago that provides each student with a Chromebook, Korenic says. The devices allowed Ursuline students to make a seamless transition to remote learning last year after Gov. Mike DeWine issued his mandate last year.
And, while other institutions were forced to lay-off segments of their workforce, Ursuline added four teachers, Korenic says. Ursuline also participated in COVID-19 relief efforts by supplying a local food pantry and essential resources to help any Ursuline family in need.
Following the guidelines of the Ohio High School Athletic Association, student athletes were able to compete, albeit before smaller crowds, she says. Social distancing also ensured that religious activities such as liturgies and prayer services continued through the pandemic.
Ursuline, a co-educational Catholic secondary and college preparatory school founded in 1905, employs 60.