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LOS ANGELES, CA, April 12, 2013 /24-7PressRelease/ -- This Los Angeles neighborhood used to be known as "South Central", the flash point of the violent 1992 Rodney King riots that left 53 dead. When businesses would no longer invest in the area, "Central" was dropped. Even with the name change, South Los Angeles remains a predominantly African-American and Hispanic neighborhood whose residents suffer from a disproportionate level of poverty, gang violence and crime.
An oasis of hope for children in South Los Angeles is the Holy Name of Jesus Catholic School (HNOJ) with grades from Transitional Kindergarten - 8th grade. When it opened in 1924, it would become one of seven Catholic schools in the region to serve the African-American community. Now, only two remain.
Fr. Paul Spellman came to HNOJ eight years ago after serving at a parish in Claremont, California. Fr. Paul explained, "Our students learn in a safe, nurturing environment. We start everyday with prayer and emphasize academics, character building, spiritual development, and music. Each child learns to play a musical instrument which feeds their joy. A number of our students come from very difficult circumstances. We are often their only haven of stability, peace and happiness."
It is a very progressive school, yet one feels as though a step is taken back in time upon entering the classroom due to the noticeably mature behavior of the children. Students stand, smile and greet in unison, "Welcome to our classroom. How are you today?" They are model students any instructor would enjoy: highly attentive; inquisitive; dedicated; positive; respectful. They are voracious readers and excel at math.
In order to ensure a seat for these children whose families are unable to afford enrollment fees, a special "Fund the Future for $500 Program" has been launched. Deacon Jim Carper, Development and Admissions Director, explains, "Our school holds 300 students. If the public helps us raise $500 per student, a local foundation will match it. This is truly a 3-way partnership with unlimited reach among the public-matchers-and children. Unlimited, because these young children beat the odds to stay in school despite the challenging and sometimes tragic events in their lives. Some parents don't even have a car; so they bring their children to school by public bus, on bicycles or by traveling on foot. Their stories inspire me every day."
The school's music and art program is folded into the rigorous curriculum as a way for students to creatively express themselves. Consequently, Holy Name of Jesus holds annual Music and Performing Arts Shows throughout the year. This unique mix of arts, stringent academics along with character and spiritual development is resulting in success in a neighborhood where no one would have expected to find it, especially from children.
Principal, Marva Belisle explains, "72% of students are African-American and 28% Hispanic. Under the devotion of Fr. Paul and dedicated, skilled instructors, we believe there is a leader in every child. It is our hope and prayer that these children are reminded that God loves them, to treat each other similarly and to use the gifts He has given us."
If you would like to learn more about the HNOJ school, "The Fund The Future for $500 Program" or how to make a donation, contact Deacon Jim Carper, Director of Marketing and Development 323-731-1830 firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the website http://www.hnojla.org or Fr. Paul's message on YouTube http://youtu.be/FY5KX5Djpig
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