Junior High students at St. Agnes Academy-St. Dominic School presented the School’s first Justice, Respect and Peace Awards to Kathleen Kruczek for her work with the homeless in Memphis through Manna House and Charles McVean for his philanthropic foundation the Peer Power Foundation, a tutoring and leadership program that helps inner-city youth succeed in school.
Mrs. Kruczek is the mother of SAA ninth grader Mary Katherine Kruczek and SAA alumna Elizabeth Kruczek. Manna House, located in midtown Memphis, TN, is a house of hospitality that provides showers, clothing, coffee and a place of rest for poor and homeless persons in Memphis. Mrs. Kruczek founded this very important sanctuary for the underserved people in our community and has worked tirelessly to assure that everyone is treated with dignity and respect. Manna House is solely volunteer-run by Mrs. Kruczek and Peter Gathje. Volunteers at Manna House prepare meals and serve people who would otherwise have nothing to eat.
Mr. McVean is the grandfather of SAA students Ella and Caroline Coffey, Allison Kaelin and SAA alumna Courtney Skouteris. His daughters Katherine Kaelin and Courtney Farrell are also SAA alumna. Combining a performance-based compensation model with the powerful effects of peer groups, Mr. McVean launched a unique student-to-student tutoring concept at East High School. The program was successful and soon evolved into Peer Power. Today, Peer Power is active in several schools throughout Memphis and Mississippi, serving more than 1,000 students every year. The program’s progress is consistent across all locations. In Shelby, Mississippi, standardized test passing rates leapt from 37% to 91% for students enrolled in the program.
The Justice, Respect and Peace award recipients were chosen by a group of SAA-SDS junior high student leaders. The students researched people in Memphis with a connection to our SAA-SDS community who have made a significant and positive impact by helping the poor and underserved in Memphis. Members of the Junior High Justice, Respect and Peace Leadership Committee are 8th graders Ruth Ellen Berry, Eliza White Ridley Browder and Hayden Johnson and 7th graders Liv Shallow, Kate Early, Olivia Barnett, Caroline McNiell and Matt Ireland.
During the presentation the students read the following combined quote, attributed to both Pope John Paul II and Pope Francis I. The students believe this quote sums up Jesus’ call to all of us, a call Mrs. Kruczek and Mr. McVean answer every day.
“We need saints without cassocks, without veils. We need saints that wear jeans and tennis shoes, saints that go to the movies, listen to music and hang out with their friends. We need saints that place God in first place ahead of succeeding in any career.
We need saints that look for time to pray every day. We need saints for the 21st century with spirituality appropriate for our new time. We need saints that have a commitment to helping the poor and to make the needed social changes to improve our world.
We need saints to live in this world, to sanctify the world and to not be afraid of living in the world by their presence in it. We need saints that drink Coca-Cola, eat hot dogs, surf the Internet and talk on their iPhones. We need saints that love the Eucharist, that are not afraid or embarrassed to pray before eating a pizza with friends. We need saints who love dance, sports and theatre.
We need saints who aren’t afraid to go out there and change the world.”
Pictured are the members of the St. Agnes Academy-St. Dominic School Jr. High Justice, Respect and Peace Leadership Committee with the 2015 award recipients. From left to right: Kate Early, Ruth Ellen Berry, Caroline McNiell, Liv Shallow, Eliza White, Charles McVean, Kathleen Kruczek, Olivia Barnett, Matt Ireland, Ridley Browder and Hayden Johnson