CHULA VISTA – As part of its observance of Catholic Schools Week, St. Rose of Lima School welcomed a high-profile guest to its campus: San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan.
Introducing her to an auditorium filled with about 230 students in grades 3 through 8, Principal Jeff Saavedra identified Stephan as “the county’s top law enforcement official” and an example of a Catholic school graduate who has “gone on to do amazing things.”
Near the start of her talk, Stephan promised that it would be a “two-way conversation” with the students. And she kept that promise, often asking questions of and soliciting the opinions of her youthful audience members. She also presented a brief video that explained the role of a district attorney, and she concluded her visit with a question-and-answer session.
During her talk, Stephan shared that she is a product of Catholic education and credited Catholic schools with preparing her so well that she was able to skip two grade levels in high school and graduate at age 16.
Stephan stressed the value of hard work, noting that she had been a dedicated student and, while attending law school, also had an internship at the district attorney’s office and a job at a deli. At the same time, she hadn’t neglected her family or her faith life.
She recounted how she had been turned down more than once when she applied for a job as a deputy district attorney, but she had continued working toward her goal. Inviting the students to reflect on the lessons that can be gleaned from this, she elicited such responses as “Persevere” and “Hard work pays off.”
Saavedra told “The Southern Cross” that he hopes this was a takeaway message for St. Rose of Lima’s students.
“Our hope is that … the students will be inspired by the fact that, if you never give up on one’s dream, work hard, and always keep your faith in Jesus Christ, great successes are possible,” he said.
Stephan also presented the students with various scenarios and asked how they would respond. These included finding themselves in situations in which their friends are speaking negatively about an ostracized peer, in which someone contacts them on social media with the offer of a potential modeling career, and in which they are asked – or even offered money – to put some unknown object in their backpack.
Stephan told the students that, when they are considering doing something, they should ask themselves whether they would be proud or embarrassed if their parents, teachers and others saw what they were about to do.
“If you use that test, you’ll never get in trouble because you’re always going to be doing things right,” she said.
Saavedra said that Stephan’s visit was a natural fit for Catholic Schools Week, which affords an annual opportunity to “slow down and reflect on the rich blessing of Catholic education.”
National Catholic Schools Week is observed this year from Jan. 26-Feb. 1 in dioceses throughout the United States. The theme is “Catholic Schools: Learn. Serve. Lead. Succeed.” The celebration, which is sponsored by the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA), highlights the value of Catholic education through a variety of activities, including open houses.
At St. Rose of Lima School, the week’s scheduled activities include various theme days, a Tech Expo for four participating schools, a pep rally, a staff versus eighth-grade volleyball game, an all-school family Mass and, as the concluding event, a Saturday evening ice cream social.