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Modern-day Santa

St. Paul School in Barton gets $60,000 gift in honor of its 120th anniversary

A “modern-day Santa” made a stop at St. Paul School in Barton Dec. 14, but he didn’t deliver a big bag of toys to the 78 children in pre-kindergarten through grade eight.
 
Rather, he gave their school a big check: $60,000.
 
“I’ve been fortunate, and I give back to people who need it,” said developer and philanthropist Antonio Pomerleau after giving an oversized presentation check to St. Paul’s Principal Joanne Beloin and Father Timothy Naples, pastor of Most Holy Trinity Parish that includes St. Paul Church in Barton.
 
Pomerleau was like a “modern-day Santa,” Beloin said. He “exuded a love of children,” she added, gesturing to make a connection to a picture of a happy Jesus with children. “His roots are here, and he is very tenderhearted about what Catholic education means to his family.”
 
Pomerleau’s brother and sister attended St. Paul School; the family moved to Newport in 1927 where he attended the former Sacred Heart School.
 
Now a parishioner of Christ the King Church in Burlington, the 99-year-old businessman made his donation as part of the school’s celebration of its 120th anniversary.
 
Earlier this year, a campaign began to raise $120 from each of 120 donors, and when Pomerleau learned of the fundraiser – which accepts donations of all amounts -- he pledged to match what was raised.
 
As of mid December, St. Paul’s had received about 90 of the specific $120 gifts.
 
Funds raised from the anniversary campaign will be used for the school’s endowment, scholarships, facilities, an outside play space, general programs and technology upgrades.
 
“The school thrives because of all the gifts we receive in time, talent, money and prayers,” Father Naples said, noting that Pomerleau’s donation was “notably the largest.”
 
Because of his challenge, “more people have decided happily to donate gifts of varying amounts” from $1.50 to $20,000,” he noted, expressing gratitude for every contribution to the continuing campaign.
 
“I’m edified and happy to see this position [Pomerleau] has as a donor where he gives out of generosity and gratitude, and he is conscious as a Catholic of the Lord’s goodness which enables him to do that and other people to do the work that he contributes to,” Father Naples said. “He uses his riches to serve the Kingdom of God.”
 
During his 30-minute visit to the school, Pomerleau greeted students in the cafeteria, listened to a song they sang for him, presented the check and posed for photographs.
 
He told the children to be diligent and never give up. He was not from a wealthy family and had to work hard; now he is able to contribute to various charities so he does. “I’ve had a lot of success in my life and just passed it on. You can’t take it with you,” he said after the presentation.
 
Pomerleau was pleased with the school. “I had no idea Barton had a [Catholic] school half as good as that,” he enthused. He was impressed with the children’s polite behavior, the cleanliness of the school and the kind way the children are treated.
 
Beloin said enrollment is growing at the school, which has 78 students – up 10 from last year. The next graduating class – with 15 members – will be the largest in recent history.
 
Teachers have a combined total of 250 years of teaching experience; she described them as knowledgeable, experienced, wise and loving. “They want to be here,” she said. “Great things are happening here.”
 
The principal – who acknowledged all the contributions the parish makes to the school -- hopes the momentum the 120th anniversary campaign has created will continue to ensure quality education in this rural area of Vermont.
 
Donations can be sent to St. Paul School, 54 Eastern Ave, Barton, VT 05822.
  • Published in Schools

Barton news 'boys'

Extra! Extra! 

Read all about it!

Two students from St. Paul School in Barton attended National History Day in June at the University of Maryland, bringing home to Vermont the award they won for their performance related to American Labor History.  

Hannah Poginy and Annika Socia – rising eighth graders — created and performed “The Newsboy Strike of 1899.” 

They dressed up as newspaper boys for their 9-minute skit about strike leaders “Kid Blink” and “Racetrack.” A panel of three judges asked questions relating to their research methods and the consequences of the strike. 

The Catholic Church has a well-documented tradition on labor and unions, rooted in the human right of association.

Pope Leo XIII’s 1891 social encyclical, “On the Condition of Labor” (“Rerum Novarum”) addressed the dehumanizing conditions in which many workers labor and affirms workers’ rights to just wages, rest and fair treatment, to form unions and to strike if necessary.

Madalyn Ledoux, religion teacher for grades 3-8 at St. Paul’s and Hannah’s maternal grandmother, said their newsboy strike topic is applicable to Catholic social teaching because the strike was one of the most successful labor strikes in U.S. history and resulted in major reforms regarding child labor. 

“Furthermore, it was primarily started and led by children,” she emphasized.

The 2016 history competition theme was “Exploration, Encounter, Exchange.”

Annika, 12, and Hannah, 13, focused their performance on the newsboy strike because they both like “Newsies The Musical,” a Disney Theatrical Productions stage musical based on the 1992 musical film “Newsies,” which was inspired by the Newsboys Strike of 1899 in New York City.

Working more than 100 hours on their project, the skit was a requirement in Susan Guilmette’s language arts class at St. Paul’s. 

The best friends first performed their skit in class then in April went to the Vermont History Day in East Montpelier, winning first place in the junior group performance with a superior rating and earning a spot at National History Day where they competed against about 100 other entries in their category.

With help from Peter Tarbox, who participates in local community theater, and Victoria Hughes, Vermont History Day coordinator, the winners of the Calvin Coolidge Prize in Vermont for an entry about something that changed America felt better prepared for the national competition, attended by several of their family members.

“We said lots of Hail Mary’s,” Annika said with a smile, referring to the nervousness the girls felt before their performance in Maryland. “It calmed us down and made us stop thinking about [being nervous,]” Hannah added.

Every year more than 3,000 students from throughout the world advance to the Kenneth E. Behring National History Day Contest in College Park, Md. Annika and Hannah created their costumes with clothing they had bought or borrowed. They smeared charcoal on their faces and clothing to resemble the newsboys who got dirty on the streets, used a cinnamon stick for a cigar and brought stacks of recycled Barton Chronicle newspapers as props.

“They were fighting for fair work conditions,” Annika said of the newsboys.

“You should treat your neighbors as yourself and your workers as yourself,” she added. 

“It doesn’t matter what your gender is or your age or where you’re from,” Hannah said.

Participating in the project helped her understand what children of the past endured. “For children, it’s really important to get educated first,” she said.

Annika was appalled that if the newsboys did not sell enough papers, they did not eat. “It made us think more about child labor,” Hannah said. “It was a hard life.”

Guilmette said the girls were “a joy to work with” because they have the “unheralded” quality of initiative which is “very, very important in life.”

Annika is the daughter of Rosa and Vincent Socia of Albany; they attend St. Mary Star of the Sea Church in Newport.

Hannah is the daughter of Alicia and Brandon Poginy of Barton and attends St. John Vianney Church in Irasburg where she is a lector.

Three other St. Paul School students qualified for the national history competition but chose not to attend.

National History Day 2017 will focus on “Taking a Stand in History,” June 11-15.

Annika and Hannah are already brainstorming their entry.

Article written by Cori Fugere Urban, Vermont Catholic staff writer.
  • Published in Parish
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