COLUMN: Giving Thanks For The Campus School

A couple of weeks ago a friend asked me to join her at a prayer service dedicated to the faculty, students, and volunteers of the Campus School. She told me that the future of the Campus School was in jeopardy and that it would be a great opportunity to voice my support. “In jeopardy?” I thought. I guess a lot had changed during my semester abroad. I did not know much about the Campus School controversy. I decided to go to the prayer service and learn more about it. I found out that the Campus School was facing the possibility of being relocated to the Kennedy Day School for disabled children, a few miles from Boston College’s campus. Faculty and parents voiced their concerns about the implications this might have on the BC community. The stories that I heard touched my heart more than I anticipated. They converted me to a Campus School advocate.

Faculty member Meg Hennessy, who happens to be a BC graduate, told a story about her life-changing experience as a Campus School volunteer. She talked about how she felt dejected during her first semester at BC. She was lost and contemplated transferring. One day, when she was feeling particularly down, she stumbled upon a group of Campus School students when she was walking back to her dorm. She followed them into Campion Hall and was introduced to the Campus School. The students and faculty embraced her with a warm welcome. She recognized it as a place of joy and hope, rather than sadness and frustration. Wanting to get involved immediately, she signed up as a volunteer. Her weekly play dates with her Campus School buddy inspired her to pursue a degree in special education. After graduating from the Lynch School of Education, she started teaching at the Campus School. Had the Campus School been in a different location, her life might be drastically different.

Next, the co-president of the Campus School Volunteers, Chris Marino, stepped up to the podium. His story is one of admiration and friendship. Now a senior, he has been volunteering at the Campus School since his freshman year. That is where he met his best friend-whom he calls the most honest and kindest person he has ever met in his life. On BC’s campus, it is hard not to get caught up in the superficial things. Every corner you turn, you hear about partying, clothes, or gossip. Marino explained that for an hour a week he could escape all of that and focus on a relationship that lacked the everyday drama. He said that he and his buddy exchanged smiles, laughter, and perspective. Marino argued that his buddy taught him more life lessons than any of his other friends. He taught him how to learn with an open mind and love with an open heart. He fought to keep the Campus School at BC because he wants future generations of BC students to experience the joy of volunteering with the Campus School.

The rest of the prayer service was a combination of laughter, smiles, and singing. We did not mourn the potential loss of the Campus School. Rather, we celebrated its tenure at BC. Parents, students, faculty, volunteers, and guests joined hands to pray for the health and well being of the BC community. I felt a secure connection among the congregation. Everyone involved did it out of love and sincerity. It made me upset that such a strong example of Jesuit tradition could be torn right out from under our feet.

At convocation, we are repeatedly told that, by the time we leave BC, we will be “men and women for others.” We will embody the Jesuit ideals and become moral leaders in our community. After I left the prayer service, I couldn’t help but feel cheated. It seemed like we were abandoning our commitment the Campus School students who bring such a strong sense of community to BC.

Therefore, I was relieved when I read the announcement in the BC Chronicle that the Campus School parents and administration have reached an agreement. They have devised a plan to balance the budget and increase enrollment, while maintaining its location on BC’s campus. Although it gives a significant responsibility to the parents of the Campus School, they promise to contribute to fundraising efforts to keep their kids at BC. Nevertheless, the announcement makes me concerned for the future. Perhaps the parents are not so successful at increasing enrollment. Perhaps they cannot effectively cut spending. Will we go back on our word? Will we strip BC students of the opportunity to interact with the caring and kind faces of the Campus School? Will the parents of Campus School students be forced to send their children elsewhere? As members of the BC community, it is our Jesuit responsibility to help those less fortunate than us. For the past 44 years, the Campus School has been the most poignant example of the Jesuit tradition at BC. It has fostered a more charitable community on our campus. We have found the money to fund the school for the past 44 years. What has really changed is our commitment to service. Together, we need to focus on what the Campus School is about, and that is helping students with special needs to grow and flourish and a warm and loving environment.

Editor’s Note: The views presented in this column are those of the author alone and do not represent the views of The Heights.