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Households bring West Catholic students together amid pandemic

December 01, 2020

West Catholic High School

At the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year, West Catholic High School teachers and administrators introduced families to the Households System. Replacing homerooms, the program breaks students from all grade levels and backgrounds into small, close-knit groups (or “households”) that prioritize relational development and a persistent experience of Christian community.

From attending short informational sessions to participating in longer service-oriented gatherings, households have been meeting three times a week since the beginning of the school year. Under the guidance of teachers and staff, who serve as Household mentors, students focus on the guiding principles of prayer, presence and persistent growth.

“One of West Catholic’s goals is to promote the development of the whole person,” Sean Nolan, religion teacher and Household System Director, says. “This approach allows for more personal connections between students and mentors as well as increased opportunities for peer-to-peer mentoring and leadership development.”

The implementation of the Households System could not have come at a better time for the school. After switching to virtual learning in March 2020, West Catholic was able to open its doors to full-time in-person instruction in the fall. However, a small segment of students chose to remain online while others had to make the switch after the school year began.

“Students around the world are struggling with feelings of isolation because they are separated from their friends and peers,” West Catholic President Cynthia Kneibel says. “Households are a great way for teachers and staff members to check in and make sure their students are doing well in terms of mental, physical and spiritual health. Students know that if they need anything, their mentors are there for them and can help provide any necessary resources or support.”

Students not in the building were able to join Households via Google Meet and continue to take part in activities with their classmates. Even now, as Michigan high schools have been ordered to move to virtual instruction again, Households continue to meet online for weekly prayers and camaraderie.

“Our students recognize the importance of connecting with others,” Nolan says. “As mentors, we are creating a space for them to come regardless of the problems they face and where they feel comfortable leaning on each other for support. It’s an intentional choice to build those connections and relationships that make our community stronger.”