Chicagoland

Leo students share original stories of faith

By Joyce Duriga | Editor
February 6, 2019

Leo students share original stories of faith

On Jan. 29, the day before the polar vortex hit the Chicago area, about 20 second-graders sat quietly on the floor of a classroom at the Academy of St. Benedict the African, 6020 S. Laflin St., and listened as six sophomores from Leo High School read them books about faith that they wrote themselves.
Chandler McMahan, Caron Gordon and Ed Harris from Leo High School read faith-based books they created themselves to students at the Academy of St. Benedict the African School in Englewood on Jan. 29, 2019. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Aygeon Abner holds up his team's book as he reads to the second graders. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Ed Harris reads from the book. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
A Leo High School student holds one of the books for the students to see the illustrations. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
A second-grader at St. Benedict the African School in Englewood listens to students from Leo High School read their own books about faith on Jan. 29, 2019. (Karen Callaway/ Chicago Catholic)
(Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)

On Jan. 29, the day before the polar vortex hit the Chicago area, about 20 second-graders sat quietly on the floor of a classroom at the Academy of St. Benedict the African, 6020 S. Laflin St., and listened as six sophomores from Leo High School read them books about faith that they wrote themselves.

The books were the product of a theology assignment to understand concepts such as the Trinity, divine revelation and the Old Testament.

“I know they were struggling with it and thought if they can do this then I know they can understand it,” said theology teacher Lydia Tabernacki. “It really helped them understand God’s revelation, the Trinity as three in one and it really opened up their eyes to look at the concepts from the eyes of someone who hasn’t heard of them before.”

The boys worked in groups and used graphics to illustrate their books. Then the sophomore classes voted on which were the best two books that would be read at the academy and at a Catholic school in Indiana where Tabernacki’s son is principal.

When Leo student Damen Ward thought through the project he went for simplicity.

“I was thinking, ‘What would be the best way to explain something that we’re learning to people who are in lower grades than us?’ I thought maybe I could simplify it, using a bunch of colors, small words, not too many sentences to keep their attention and entertain them,” Ward said. “We put our own little twists in and additions to it.”

Aygeon Abner said he enjoyed reading to the kids.

“Once I got up there I saw the kids, and you know they have a short attention span, so I tried to make sure they would be intrigued by my book,” Abner said. “Even though they are little kids you still get nervous a little bit. It was fun coming up here and presenting to them.”

At the end of the readings, the children asked the teens questions such as what sports and activities they participated in. Several of the Leo students sing in the school choir so one second-grader asked them to sing, which they did.

When Jennifer Fleck, teaching and learning coordinator at Leo and former assistant principal at the academy, heard of the idea she coordinated the visit to her old school, which is located just 3½  miles away in West Englewood.

Bringing the students together made sense to Fleck.

“We’ve got about six or seven current students who came from St. Benedict the African,” she said, adding that Leo students regularly volunteer to read at a public elementary school located just a few blocks from their campus.

“It’s really just a part of our ethos that Leo exists to be a part of the community,” she said. “These second-graders are our future students someday.”

Topics:

  • catholic schools
  • catholic schools week

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