SEATTLE – More than 300 graduates of St. George School are returning for the school’s sold-out 100th anniversary celebration January 18, and that speaks volumes about the school’s legacy, said principal Monica Wingard.
“That tells me when they were here they felt valued, they felt like they belonged, they felt like they were a part of something important,” she said.
When St. George School opened on Seattle’s Beacon Hill in 1919, its students were mainly from European immigrant families who worked in the Georgetown industrial area below the hill, Wingard said. A century later, the school still supports immigrant families in south Seattle, from cultural backgrounds including Vietnamese, Filipino, Chinese and Eritrean.
“Our mission stayed the same, but the cultural diversity of our immigrants has changed,” Wingard said.
Today, St. George has some 250 students in preschool through eighth grade; 84 percent are students of color and 30 percent of all students qualify for the free and reduced lunch program. The school maintains “rigorous programs that support kids and get them ready for high school,” Wingard said.
Many families are attracted to the values that Catholic education offers.
“A lot of our parents are really into social justice, kindness, respect for others, care for the environment,” Wingard said. “They all want their kids to be kind and compassionate civic leaders, and that transcends all faiths.”
Whether Catholic or not, all students “are fully engaged in the faith aspect of the school,” Wingard said. “They learn the prayers, they learn the doctrine.” She said students are taught, “This is what we believe, talk about it with your parents.”
“We are always an open invitation to have a relationship with Jesus Christ,” Wingard said. “Everybody’s invited to the table.”
St. George works hard to make Catholic education affordable to families, Wingard said. The school has an in-house scholarship fund and an endowment administered through the Fulcrum Foundation, which provides financial assistance for Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Seattle. The endowment fund helps support St. George’s tuition-assistance program and provides guaranteed income to the school, Wingard said.
To help fund that endowment for the next 100 years, the school aims to raise $100,000 during its Centennial Gala on January 18, Wingard said. (Donate to the endowment.)
Some graduates of St. George have stayed in the neighborhood, building successful businesses like Borracchini’s Bakery, Tutta Bella pizzerias and Beacon Plumbing, Wingard said. Although other alumni have moved out of state, some will be attending the gala and the next day’s alumni Mass.
“St. George has always been like a family environment, and you know, family takes care of family,” Wingard said. “Our older generations are supporting our current in-house kids and the ones that are going to come next year and in the future.”
“Pay it forward,” she said. “It’s all about taking care of each other.”