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god’s children in extraordinary variety

Dream Big, STA! Reach for the STArs!

Date posted: November 2, 2017

Many of our school community members are excited for the opportunity to raise money for a new playground for our students. We hope you enjoy reading what a few have written in support of STA and Reach for the STArs.

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Through an unknown power I ended up teaching at St. Thomas the Apostle Elementary School nearly three decades ago! Upon my arrival, I felt at home.  Was it the experience of practical, personal and communal faith provided by the religious environment? Was it the manifestation of the love of Christ and Christian values? Was it the welcome I received from the administration and the professionally dedicated teachers who have a conscience and a Christian outlook on life and the world? I do not know what it was then or what it is now; but I do know one thing: my heart fills with joy whenever I hear good news about the school!

 St. Thomas the Apostle School has created an identity of excellence in the community.  Parents are inspired to see everyone working hard to create a caring and loving linkage between school, home and community.  Teachers work cooperatively with parents and are sensitive to their many concerns.  They constantly find ways to keep up with the latest or to get new ideas.

 I hear that the school is in the process of opening a new playground (something that I have been wishing for all these years)! The benefits of having a playground are twofold: 1) It provides opportunities for free play, which allows children to play any way they choose, supported by a wide range of structures and spaces.  2) It is fun for children and hence, it will have lasting positive impacts on their development (cognitively, emotionally, physically and socially).

 I am very supportive of the philosophy of St. Thomas the Apostle School and it will always have a special place in my heart!


– Dr. Marina Mardrus, former STA teacher

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St. Thomas the Apostle’s Reach for the STArs campaign represents our commitment to the community and is an important part of our mission to lead, challenge, and encourage our students. Since first arriving to St. Thomas the Apostle, I have been so grateful for the opportunity to teach in an environment that is clearly and wholeheartedly dedicated to the growth and support of the students. I truly believe in the value of a compassionate and nurturing learning environment, and since moving to Chicago from Los Angeles, I am extremely grateful to be able to serve in such a supportive school that fosters the same ideals as my own. STA is a place that I am proud to call my new home and I feel very blessed to be a part of such a special community.

The contributions to this campaign are invaluable for the continuous development of the many learning tools and resources our students use on a daily basis. From last year’s generous donations, my Kindergarten classroom now has access to our own set of iPads! We have utilized our iPads to enrich students’ early literacy and math skills, and I have thoroughly enjoyed seeing my students take to this technology with such engagement and enthusiasm. I am excited to expand the use of our iPads and the role of technology in fulfilling our goal to implement a rigorous curriculum.

Building upon the success from last year, the Reach for the STArs campaign is now working to raise money to build a new playground for our students. As a Kindergarten teacher, I know my students would be ecstatic about this addition to our campus! Playgrounds provide children with an opportunity for free play, imaginative exploration, and experiential learning, all of which are essential to the education of the whole person. We constantly strive for new ways to improve the educational experience for our students and this initiative embodies that philosophy. At St. Thomas the Apostle, we know that growth and fun take place both inside and outside of the classroom!


– Claire Florin, STA Kindergarten teacher

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“Higher! Higher!”

“Keep pushing me higher!”


That was the normal cry heard from the school playground. Nothing else mattered once we hit the playground, regardless of what happened in the classroom. Like many adults, I can vividly remember the many life lessons that were learned on the playground. Recess was the part of the day when I was learning without knowing that I was learning.

A New York Times article from 2011, titled “The Power of Playground” speaks to this experience, even calling recess a “traditional school subject.” It is during this special time that children are able to break away from their day, reboot, and return to the classroom energized and focused. For children, physical activity a stress reducer and helps to release tension and anxiety.

Time spent on the playground helps children to develop their social and cognitive skills. They learn how to navigate their emotions, cultivate relationships, and grow as a leader. Yes! All this can happen on a slide and seesaw. The playground, in many ways, is an extension of the classroom. Playgrounds provide a different landscape for children to work on sharing, problem-solving, and being a good person.

A new playground for St. Thomas will do all of this and more. We currently are working with the Playworks organization to add structure to recess. This was just the first step. STA has seen great results and we are pleased with the successes that have been experienced.  STA is now going to take it up a level and offer an enhanced version of Playworks that will incorporate the playground equipment. The Playworks coaches and Miss Hollifield will lead the students through an activity that will allow the students to navigate the equipment on their own. The administration is confident that successes will continue once the playground is in place. 

Let’s all come together to help provide our students with a high-quality recess experience just like we have worked to provide them with high-quality in-classroom experience!


 – Ashley-Lauren McLean, STA parent and Advisory Board member


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As longtime parishoners of STA parish and members of the Hyde Park community, we have always drawn tremendous inspiration from the vibrancy and warmth of the parish community, a true exemplar of God’s people in extraordinary variety. We are the proud parents of three boys who have attended St. Thomas the Apostle School, and we have been thrilled to witness the growth and renewed vibrancy of our parish school. Two of our sons have graduated from the school (in 2014 and 2016), and our youngest son is thriving in 3rd grade this year.  We have been consistently impressed by the dedication of STA’s teachers—their commitment to solid educational principles, their openness to innovative and creative ways of teaching children of all types, and their dedication to Christian principles of respect and caring for all human beings. They are supported by an excellent leadership team (Mr. Gallo, Mrs. Damico, and Ms. Acton) who have helped the school’s enrollment triple since we arrived in 2010 while sustaining a welcoming community and rigorous educational standards. From a science education curriculum that is aligned to 21st Century Standards to courses in art, music and foreign language, to a broad array of afterschool activities that range from yoga to chess to robotics to basketball and soccer, children are encouraged to explore and learn in a supportive and nurturing environment.  The school also gives parents numerous opportunities for fun and community building: Home and School sponsors many family-focused events throughout the year such as the Halloween Celebration, Mother–Son and Father-Daughter Dances along with our not-to-be-missed Wines and Steins and STArry Night events that raise funds for the school while offering a fun evening out for parents and supporters of STA.

 There are many options for parents of elementary school children in Hyde Park, and we believe that St. Thomas the Apostle offers a unique and quality education for “God’s children in extraordinary variety.” Please help ensure that our precious asset continues to grow and thrive in years to come by contributing to “Reach for the STArs.”


– Raymond & Bronwyn Lodato, STA Parents, School Advisory Board member and STArry Night Co-Chair


Make your contribution to Reach for the STArs today!

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