Ask families what defines Brownell Talbot School, and they’ll likely say it’s the sense of community.
That’s in large part because it’s the only school in the city where a child can attend from age 3 until heading off to college. Many families have multiple students enrolled.
Last spring, in a class of 35, the school graduated 13 students who had been at Brownell Talbot since first grade or earlier.
“There’s a reason I’ve been here practically my whole life,’’ recent graduate Surya Buddharaju said. “It’s a community like no other.’’
Every private school in Omaha has something special that graduates remember long after they’ve left the building.
* * *
What each Omaha-area private school says makes them unique:
Kids from all grades at Brownell Talbot School interact, with kindergartners heading to class across from an upper school art room. Plus, older kids mentor the youngsters in the lower grades. As is done every year, the speech team, which was a state champion in 2018-2019, helped the fourth-graders rehearse for their annual Wax Museum. Every BT student participates in the homecoming unity walk, lining the courtyard to cheer on the fall athletes.
Duchesne Academy of the Sacred Heart
Junior Raleigh Kreis receives a ring from senior Lauren Coldiron during the 2019 ring ceremony, a tradition at Duchesne Academy. Each spring, seniors present juniors with their rings, then turn their own to face outward. It’s a symbol of their imminent departure from Duchesne, and their responsibility to spread the love of the Sacred Heart of Jesus to the world. Sacred Heart grads find each other all over the world, thanks to those rings. “It is truly unique to make an instant connection with students who live across the country and have a shared high school experience,” recent graduate Sunny Washington said.
Every fall, Gross Catholic holds a sorting ceremony, and freshmen are put into the houses they’ll be a part of for the next four years. It’s a Marianist school tradition, and each house has its own colors, motto, coat of arms and traditions. At the end of the year, houses compete for the “Cougar Cup.’’ The objective is to enable all students to embrace their potential for leadership and to become part of a multi-grade community that is responsible for the academic, social and spiritual growth of all its members. “I love it. I think it is really cool,” student Isabel Simpson said. “Your house is kind of like your fam.”
Kids at the Jesuit Academy look forward to summer camp all year. Class in the morning is followed by activities in the afternoon, including swim sessions, hikes, football, archery and more. Everyone attends the three-week session, which builds brotherhood between students. For some, it’s their first time at a camp. One fourth-grader said his favorite part was hanging out with his friends and having fun in the pool. “This year I even got to pick berries from bushes on the hike.”
Field Day at Marian isn’t a typical day of track and field events. It’s a colorful, creative and fun-filled competition between the classes to see who can display the most school spirit. The event takes place in April, but students prepare for the big day for months. About 3,000 people came to watch last April. “You have such a small amount of time to work on something so large. It brings classes together to create something bigger than yourself. It’s stressful and crazy, but it’s awesome,” said sophomore Elleiana Green.
Mercy High School participates in the annual Mercy Girl Effect, joining other schools across the country to raise money to support humanitarian efforts in Third World countries. Last year, funds provided basic necessities for misplaced Syrian refugees living in camps in Lebanon. This year, the focus is sustainability. Funds will go to planting trees in Africa. Sponsored by the student council, project activities included a class penny war, a dodgeball tournament and a special pizza luncheon with booths and sale items. “It’s so special because the student body comes together for a common purpose — to help others and to build school spirit,’’ said Sophie Harvat, student council president.
After students move in at Mount Michael, an all-school picnic is held near the bell tower. It starts with a Mass in which students lead the choir and band members contribute music. New parents, alumni parents, teachers, staff members, members of the monastic community, members of the board and others attend to showcase the community to the new families. Afterward, each family contributes a dinner side to go along with the main entry supplied by the booster club. Senior Calvin Benson describes the picnic as “a great way to start the school year because it brings families together and introduces the new families to the great community of Mount Michael.”
At Roncalli Catholic, students are taught how to live their faith through their actions. One way came last spring, when the Textiles Analysis and Construction class made dresses from pillowcases for Little Dresses for Africa. The nonprofit organization, which is based in Michigan, sends the dresses where they are needed most. The school hopes it’s the start of a tradition.
First Friday Popsicle Day is a fun way to finish the first week of school at Skutt Catholic. All the students are invited outside for the treat. A rewarding part of being a student at Skutt Catholic is the ability to be involved in activities and athletics while achieving academic excellence, graduates say. In fact, 93% of the students are involved in a sport or activity. The reading of the Legend of the SkyHawk caps a student’s time at the school and ushers them into being an alum. The SkyHawk is named because it soars higher than others of its species. It is a messenger calling others to reach their highest potential and to be closer to God.