School Spotlight: St. Thomas Aquinas School

In the iconic Rocky II, Rocky Balboa stops at his Catholic parish on the way to the Spectrum to get his priest’s blessing prior to the World Heavyweight Championship rematch. For over 30 years, Rocky has symbolized hard work, struggle and success on a personal, neighborhood and city level. That scene was filmed at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic church at 18th and Morris Streets in South Philadelphia. Today, the St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic School (STA) sits on that same campus. Like Rocky, the staff at STA are working hard for the success of the students, the neighborhood, and the city.

As one of the 15 Independence Mission Schools, STA has grown enrollment by 20% over the past year. Many strategic improvements have been implemented as the school remains committed to its greatest asset – the diversity of the student population. A recent community and parent survey, distributed in four languages, garnered a 89% response rate. This is a testament to the level of investment from families in the school. STA’s vision is rooted in supporting strong foundation skills in literacy and math, as well as building students that are innovators, collaborators and communicators.

In the last 16 months, students have reaped the benefits of many new partnerships. STA’s designation as a Children’s Literacy Initiative Model School has greatly impacted K-3 instruction. Foundation grants have funded a brand new science lab and a reinvigorated library. Students are now engaged in hands-on science exploration and have the opportunity to check out books from the nearly 2,000 title library. STA partnerships have also increased after-school options such as girls’ fitness initiatives, academic enrichment, and robotics. At the onset of the 2014-2015 school year, STA became involved in a year-long strategic planning process funded by the Philadelphia School Partnership that has taken the transformation to a deeper level. The strategic plan, scheduled for June completion, will result in improvements to further the vision and provide the framework for additional growth.

As the fictitious Rocky came to 18th and Morris on his climb to success, STA is now positioned to be an integral support in its students’ success as 21st century learners and citizens.

Contribution: Vince Mazzio, Principal

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