December 5, 2014

Students aim high in leading village’s special Christmas event

Students at Oldenburg Academy of the Immaculate Conception in Oldenburg display the banner they created to promote the community’s annual “Holidays Under the Spires” event on Dec. 6. Members of the school’s National Business Honor Society took the lead this year in planning and promoting the village’s Christmas celebration. (Submitted photo)

Students at Oldenburg Academy of the Immaculate Conception in Oldenburg display the banner they created to promote the community’s annual “Holidays Under the Spires” event on Dec. 6. Members of the school’s National Business Honor Society took the lead this year in planning and promoting the village’s Christmas celebration. (Submitted photo)

(Editor’s note: The Criterion offers its monthly salute to the success stories of Catholic schools in the archdiocese.)
 

By John Shaughnessy

Jonathon Maple wanted a challenge for his high school students.

He also wanted a way for his students to help the small Indiana community that has always been generous to their school.

Both dreams will blend in a special way on Dec. 6 when the village of Oldenburg will host its annual “Holidays Under the Spires”—a town-wide Christmas celebration featuring carolers, roving musicians, an Advent Mass, a children’s area and a performance by a German folk choir befitting the community’s ethnic heritage.

And it’s all being planned by the 19 students who form the National Business Honor Society chapter at Oldenburg Academy of the Immaculate Conception.

“We were looking for a service project to benefit the community,” says Maple, a teacher at the private Catholic school and the moderator of the business honor group. “I was talking with a few local businesspersons, and they suggested this event. Mary Beth Kerker, who normally does it, has had a very busy year. The kids have provided a new outlook, a new energy and a focus on making it a great event.”

The student business group has been planning “Holidays Under the Spires” for months, all the time thinking of new festivities for the event while promoting it in every way possible—from creating a website to carrying signs and handing out candy canes while marching in Batesville’s recent holiday parade.

“It’s very reassuring that the town of Oldenburg is happy to have us plan the event,” says Kirsten Ricke, a senior from St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Decatur County. “This event means a lot to them, so it says a lot about how they think of us to let us do this. With everything we’ve added, it’s going to be a lot of fun.”

Children will be able to make ornaments, decorate a gingerbread house and have breakfast with Santa.

“We’re having a mailbox where little kids can write letters to Santa, and members of our group will respond to the children as elves,” says Ella Lamping, a senior from St. Louis Parish in Batesville. “We also hope people will get the feel of the German heritage of the town.”

Working toward that goal, the group has lined up a German folk choir from Cincinnati—the Kolping Society Sangerchor. The choir will be part of the celebration of Mass at 5:30 p.m. on Dec. 6 in Holy Family Church in Oldenburg. The singers will also perform at 7 p.m. in the Sisters of St. Francis Chapel.

A year ago, Sarah Wilder was one of the Oldenburg Academy musicians playing “Jingle Bells” and “The First Noel” as they roamed through the streets entertaining visitors. This year, the senior violinist from St. Louis Parish in Batesville has been busy creating the Facebook account for the celebration.

“It’s fun to see people around the area come to enjoy something like this,” Sarah says. “Planning the event has definitely been a challenge, but I think we’re all up for the challenge.”

Senior Ryne Domingo wants to see how people respond to the fresh approach.

“There’s been a lot of interest from people inside of Oldenburg and outside of Oldenburg,” says Ryne, a member of St. Mary Parish in Greensburg. “People are looking forward to it.”

The students’ teacher is among that group. He’s already proud of what the 19 seniors and juniors have accomplished.

“Planning a town-wide event is not an easy thing to do,” Maple says. “Part of our organization’s mission is to promote local businesses. Oldenburg is known for volunteerism, and the people here do so much for the academy. This is a way for us to give back.

“This is a volunteer effort by the students. It’s a great story of the youth doing something good. They want to instill the Christmas spirit in Oldenburg and take it to a whole new level.”

For more information, visit www.holidaysunderthespires.com.
 

Teacher receives rare national honor

Bill HicksOnly three people have received the special national award since 1925.

And when Bill Hicks recently became the third person to be honored with the award from the National Speech and Debate Association, the longtime teacher at Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School in Indianapolis was naturally pleased.

Yet, the real thrill came when the news spread to his former students who used Facebook and Twitter to congratulate him and thank him for his influence on their lives.

“Knowing they’re being successful is a bigger thrill for me than a nice plaque,” said Hicks, a 70-year-old teacher who has been teaching speech and debate for 48 years, including the past 31 at Brebeuf.

Hicks received the National Speech and Debate Association’s “Distinguished Service Plaque—Eleventh Honors.”

“The award recognizes coaches who unselfishly serve the association by sponsoring new chapters, serving as a district or national officer, hosting and/or managing tournaments, and speaking or writing about speech and debate education,” stated J. Scott Wunn, the association’s executive director.

On Dec. 6, for the 31st year in a row, Hicks will direct the Brebeuf Speech Tournament for sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students from across the state. Students from the Indianapolis schools of St. Jude, St. Luke the Evangelist and St. Thomas Aquinas have traditionally exceled at the event.

Hicks has his own measure of success for the 20-30 Brebeuf students who take his speech and debate class each year.

“The number one fear for people is speaking in public. My goal in my classes is to get every student up and talking as much as possible—and improving. Communication skills are what I’m working at, especially in this age of social media when people don’t look at each other eye to eye.”
 

(Send short summaries of your school’s success stories to assistant editor John Shaughnessy by e-mail to jshaughnessy@archindy.org or by mail in care of The Criterion, 1400 N. Meridian St., Indianapolis, IN, 46202. Please include a contact person for your school’s story and a phone number where he or she can be reached.)

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