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Magazine: Thriving in the Desert

For students of Yuma Catholic High School in Arizona, the experience is as much about the academics as it is about the community. According to Rhett Stallworth, the school’s principal, the school requires a minimum of 100 hours of community service to graduate, but they have several students walking away with over 1,000 hours under their belt. “We try to impress upon the students the blessing the community has been to us in general,” Rhett says. “The community gives quite a bit to us to keep us afloat.”

The story of Yuma Catholic was also covered in an article titled “Walking on Faith” in the fall 2003 edition of Catholic Forester. Catholic Order of Foresters gave the school a loan after many previous attempts by the school to secure a loan failed. This loan made sure the groundbreaking could happen and that the school could open as planned. Later, COF helped finance other projects with the school to accommodate its growing student population. “We have a shared mission to help them succeed,” Greg Temple, who serves as the Executive Vice President and Chief Investment Officer at COF, said.

The school’s original board members, Sonny Rodriguez among them, made sure to make the school accessible to all in the community. When they realized they needed to raise tuition, they chose instead to secure financial aid and fundraise. Sonny describes it such that “the school would mirror the community [because] this community couldn’t afford a high tuition. These parents are at poverty level.” They are doing everything they can to make sure the students in the area have access to an education, raising more financial aid to send the students on to receive a higher education. Sonny says that 99.9% of their students go on to big universities and are highly prepared for the workload there. Rhett added, “Our students garner more scholarship money than all the public schools put together. Last year, our average student left here with $139,700 in scholarship money for college.”

The students don’t always need the help, though. To use Rhett’s words, they have “hustle”. To add to an already growing list of these stellar students’ accomplishments, their athletics program has been highly successful. They are sitting on 17 state titles with numerous runner-up titles, and the average GPA of each athlete is 3.4/4.0. They have had caring and wise leaders to instruct them, who have put time and love into making sure the school is as energy efficient and environmentally friendly as it can be, offers the best programs, and has as many sports as possible—the only one they don’t offer is swimming.

Yuma Catholic’s student body keeps growing; in the school’s third year it had a waiting list, and the school has been filled with driven young minds ready to serve ever since. Rhett said it: “When students think about service they are able to see the world for what it truly is, and they become more well-rounded.”

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