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A personal reflection on ATHS mission.
By Sr. Mary Elizabeth Dung Le,r.a
Edited by Sr. Josefina Maria Magat,r.a
It seems to me that JPICS is not a new vocabulary in the life and mission of Assumpta Technical High School (ATHS) since this institution was born for the poor in 1970. It still remains a school at the service of the poor up to the present time. And it is continuously updating itself to respond better to the current life situation of our times. This is my fourth year of being assigned here in San Simon Community and I am at the service of ATHS life and mission. I am grateful to find myself here in this mission. It is a place that never stops improving itself for the life and mission it was born and still exists for. I find here in ATHS a glimpse of the kingdom that Jesus desires for His poor ones.
We – those who are presently assigned here – are in the midst of this mission, harvesting and tasting the fruits of the labor and generous service of those who begun it. We continue the legacy they passed on to us, to maintain its spirit while moving forward in the direction demanded of us by the current realities. In this community, I find a very strong and supportive lay and religious partnership in mission. We formulate together our joint school – community plan every year. Areas proper to our religious life are respected and given much support. Following faithfully its original purpose and updating ourselves in responding to our current issues, ATHS walks closely in the direction of the province and crafts its action plan of the school year for both religious and lay for a better service to its clientele yearly.
Character formation, anchored on faith and spirituality, academic excellence, and social responsibility is our goal in educating the learners. Justice, Peace, Integrity, Care for Creation, and Solidarity (JPICS) is an integral part of our curriculum. Let us take a closer look at some recent ATHS practices through the lens of JPICS.
By its nature, Justice, Peace, Integrity, Care for Creation, and Solidarity (JPICS) is an important part of ATHS life and mission. It is a school for the poor. It aims to give the best education to the poor in order to uplift their life and affirm their integrity. Concretely, this is done by using the socialized tuition fee scheme where students pay the amount their families could afford, so much so that families with a higher income assume a bigger responsibility for the education of their children while those who are poor are financially assisted without any social discrimination. Another strategy is the offering of a dual curriculum with a complete academic program and an additional set of vocational – technical courses for more practical life skills which could come handy for extra income after graduation. A third strategy is by offering to all learners a pastoral program that covers all the projects and activities responding to the call for social responsibility as an integral part of the holistic character formation of the learners.
Socialized Tuition Fee Scheme:
The Socialized Tuition Fee Scheme is the school policy of assigning the appropriate amount to charge each learner based on the family’s actual financial status. This is meticulously determined by assessing the different aspects of each family circumstance. This tedious process is assumed by the whole school in varied levels of involvement. My experience of sitting in the deliberation team meetings of the Admissions and Grants Office (AGO) to decide on the students’ individually assigned tuition fee is something I deeply appreciate. By doing this, I learn how ATHS welcomes all students, especially the poor, and makes available to them the good quality of education they deserve. Since each one pays according to what the family could afford, they become responsible for their education while also maintaining their own dignity. More than 90% of our students are financially assisted for they pay less than the real cost of education. This is possible because of the many benefactors who support the program especially from among our old girls of the Assumption as well as our alumni of ATHS themselves. Indeed, our school remains a school of choice with its high-quality of education and the priority it gives to the poor.
ATHS Dual Curriculum Program:
In the dual curriculum of ATHS, besides the academic program, the students can choose one of the vocational/technical courses such as computer programming, furniture making, basic health services, pastry and bread baking and others for specialized skills training. It helps the students to graduate with both an academic diploma and a vocational/technical certificate. They may have more choices after ATHS, either to pursue their college education, or to go and work with the government certified skill that they have acquired. It gives them a big chance of finding jobs after high school.
Assumpta Pastoral Program:
By its nature, ATHS is a school of the poor and for the poor, and yet, it links itself to the wider community in reaching out to those consider poorer and more marginalized. The pastoral program of ATHS intends to expose our students to current realities in their immediate environment and to form in them characters with compassionate awareness and social responsibility. In the process ATHS is able to also help many sectors in their needs. Through its Share a Care Program, the poor, the deprived and the marginalized like the old, the abandoned children, the disable, the prisoners, the drug addicts, and the indigenous people experience the love and care of the school community as teachers and students visit and relate with them, and if able, also respond to some of their material needs. Through these, they feel the interest of the school in them, simple friendships develop, and they feel connected to other sectors in the wider community. In school, learners are helped to process their experiences and reflect on mutual learnings and possible long-term responses especially as they choose their future career in life.
In ATHS, “Community CARES” is a way of life that we uphold and live. Regular “Kumustahan” (how are you?) is conducted once every quarter for learners, employees, parents, and alumni to know how they are in different aspects of life. It is to identify and acknowledge joys and concerns of each one and provide some kind of emotional support to one another. “A walk with a Core Group friend”, and “Coffee with a Sister” provide new opportunities to bond in a more personal way and to establish a quality of relationship among lay and religious that goes beyond mere work. This encounter in depth allows a kind of listening that often leads to healing and renewed hope among the employees. Everyone in the community offers prayers for members experiencing difficulties. We visit the sick members and give comfort to those who lost their loved ones. The employees who are in difficulties receive financial help which is a free act of kindness when the hat is passed around, another gesture of loving care for one another. Solidarity is not just a concept but a way of life that ATHS lives.
ATHS, together with the 9 Catholic Schools in the Archdiocese of San Fernando, in coordination with the Social Action Center of Pampanga (SACOP) assume the education and formation of the Indigenous People – the Aetas – in Camias and Villa Maria, Porac Pampanga. Every year, the grade 10 learners of ATHS have their interaction and relief operation with the Aetas. Lately, for a more lasting impact, the senior high school students put up a scholarship program for two college students among the Aetas whom they commit to support until they finish their 4-year course to prepare them for a better job.
ATHS also has different programs to share its gifts and blessings with others who are in need such as the educational assistance to adopted publish schools, catechistical instruction for students of the neighboring publish schools, skills (technical, baking) training of those in need and are interested, and extending their loving service through the “Share a Labor Program” in cleaning their Parishes, even as they do seasonal relief operations to help people affected by different natural and man- made calamities.
Social Investigatory Research:
ATHS aims to know and understand the living conditions of San Simon, Minalin, Apalit (the 3 towns where most of our students come from) in terms of their economic, political, cultural, social, ecclesial and environmental aspects by conducting an integrated social investigatory research annually where all subjects plan and assume the whole process from start to finish. They focus on one municipality for each research season, thus making it possible to visit each town once every three years. The result of the research becomes a good source of information for many action plans of the local government, parishes and other institutions in the place. They appreciate being provided with updated data on their constituents coming from the social investigatory research of ATHS.
ATHS takes strongly upon herself the responsibility to raise the awareness of all the stakeholders about the current JPICS issues. Prior to the national and local elections, voters’ empowerment talk series was given to raise awareness and empower the people to make responsible choices in voting for the right leaders. With regards to learners whose parents are migrant workers, there are programs and activities that accompany them in processing their experiences. Formation Session on “Care for Mother Earth” is given importance for all. There is also the daily morning and afternoon Transcendental Meditation for peace for volunteer faculty and staff members. Hopefully, in the years to come, it will be made available even to our students too. In connection with this, space, place and time for peace are respected in the campus like the chapel, the oratory, the prayer corner - where candles are lighted for prayer offerings, as well as the St. Francis of Assisi Peace Sanctuary in the garden.
Care for Mother Earth is imbedded in all the lessons and activities of the school to make ATHS move forward to become a Laudato Si school. This school year, inspired by the theme of the 2022 Season of Creation, “Listening to the Voice of Creation, Assumpta Goes Back to the Basics” is the theme of the ecology month in November, supported by a guideline for the whole year of on-going activities concerning ecological issues. As a school community, aware of the importance of caring for our common home, we have been listening and responding to the call of creation by practicing the “10-point Environment-friendly Agenda,” in implementing the Waste Management System, composting, conserving energy, maintaining cleanliness and order, and beautifying strategic areas of the school grounds, where homemade eco bricks are used. ATHS also has a hydroponic garden to show the learners an alternative way of organic vegetable gardening.
One of the objectives of the ecology month was to understand profoundly the plight of the environment through the film “The Letter” and other resources. The film “The Letter” and other short video clips were played in strategic places for both faculty and learners to raise awareness of the plight of Mother Earth. The film was picked up in the Science as well as the other subjects for theme integration. The other learners who were not able to watch in the library watched on their own within the Ecology Month. The link to the film was posted in the Aralinks together with a short quiz to ensure that they watched the film, to assess their understanding, and to challenge them to do more concrete actions for the environment. Towards the end of the Ecology Month, the Science teachers processed the film with the learners by asking them questions pertinent to the film, the plight of the environment, the challenges and hopes they have for our environment. Non-Science teachers also integrated Laudato Si and the Laudato Si Film in their respective lessons.
These recent years, ATHS and residents in the town have been facing the very serious air pollution caused by 5 smelting plant companies located within agricultural and residential zones. The pollution has reached the red alarm. According to one research, 30% of the residents suffer from bronchial problems. The head of the Apostolate of the Religious of the Assumption – Sr. Josefina Maria Magat,r.a and the principal of the school – Ms. Arlene Carlos, met with the major of San Simon town concerning the issue, but the response of the leader of the town was not at all encouraging as commonly expected. The issue was raised to the MRMF board meeting level leading to some planned actions to present the problem to the higher government offices on the national level. The alarm is known to all the faculty and staff who have expressed their common care and concern! What is the next step that ATHS will courageously take in the path of defending our environment, our common home? We hope to see it in the next chapter of ATHS, as it continues to give life, protect life, and nurture life especially along JPICS matters!
2, ATHS - ECOLOGY-PROGRAM
3, ATHS - Ecology-Month-2022
4, Letter of Sr. Josefina Maria Magat, head of the apostolic of ATHS to Mr. Lito Tayat, chairman of MRMF Board on the issue of pollution in San Simon.