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Best of the Week 2019-2020: Excellence in College Prep


After studying Cardinal Avery Dulles' Models of the Church, sophomore Theology students in Mr. Owen Williams' '13 and Mr. Michael Yako's classes teamed up to create "Shark Tank"-style projects, pitching innovative ideas and action plans to better promote a Model of the Church at St. Edward High School. The structure of this project, which has been incorporated into the Theology curriculum for the past few years, has grown with the incorporation of the IB program. However, the project's goal has always been to have students gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for the functions of the Church through a creative opportunity to promote active involvement as members of a faith-based community. Student teams originally spent a week collaborating and preparing their product pitches on campus in the Innovation Center before remote learning went into effect. While still wanting to make each pitch presentation interactive and engaging for students online, Principal KC McKenna '00 and Campus Minister Ms. Cari White joined in live during Google Hangout sessions to serve as guest "Shark Tank" judges. "Ms. White often selects several 'Shark Tank' Theology project finalists to work with her to actually implement their projects into the school's Campus Ministry programming for the upcoming school year," says Mr. Yako.

Two of this year's many innovative projects included "Points for Prayer" by Evan Bork, Ted Cawley, Mason Chunuk and Guy Hansen and "The Bible Podcast" by Matthew Dobrowsky, Robert Keyser and Dai-Yaan Solomon. The "Points for Prayer" team wanted to find a way to encourage their classmates to participate more in praying as a community. With a focus on the Model of the Church as a Servant, this team pitched their idea to hold communal prayer sessions with guest speakers during Community Period and, for those who attended, they'd receive a QR code to accumulate prayer points and earn incentives through a mobile prayer app. The "Points for Prayer" pitch emphasized how praying for and with others is one of the ultimate ways we can serve the world together. On the other hand, "The Bible Podcast" team developed their project idea from a need to empathize with the Model of the Church as Herald or Messenger, feeling many students and peers have deep questions regarding Church teachings that they don't feel comfortable asking during class. By creating a Google Form for students to fill out and submit their questions anonymously, students proposed to host and record a weekly podcast, inviting local priests and other faith leaders to help answer students' anonymous questions.

"Theology is one of the easiest courses to see interdisciplinary lessons in action," says Mr. Yako. "We often see students using skills they've learned in their Engineering, Film, Speech or English courses to complete class projects. We pride ourselves on not only teaching students what it means to be men of faith in today's world, but also teaching transferable skills that students can use throughout their entire lives. This project is based on learning about the Church while giving students realistic skill sets to be future innovators."

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