I am pleased with my class schedule this year. I have a study hall fifth hour, no history class (I’ve never liked history), and, perhaps most exciting of all, I get the chance to take some of Dominican’s most interesting art classes.

Last semester I had a great experience developing photos for film photography, and stained glass this semester looks to be just as enjoyable. It’s easy to appreciate the powerful equipment necessary to grind and shape the glass, but there is another important part of the class I tend to take for granted: prayer.

 Every day, before we put on our safety goggles and heat up our soldering irons, we pause, gather around a paint-spattered table, and thank God for our life and all of our blessings.

To the 12 students in the class, this is second nature, just something Mrs. Gehr has always done, but in actuality, this is anything but common. Experiences like this one are the reason my parents chose a Catholic school for their children. It is simple things like these that are trademarks for the value of a Catholic education.

I have been going to Catholic school for 14 years, and there’s a good chance I’ll go to a Catholic university to add four more to my résumé. Choosing which colleges to apply to forced me to evaluate the past decade of schooling and to try to decipher what exactly this system has done for me.

The benefits of Catholic education are deep and intangible, quietly forming students in ways that numbers can’t reflect. A successful Catholic school gives its students much more than a few extra theology assignments. It provides students with exceptional teachers that act as multi-faceted role models, guiding children intellectually, spiritually and morally. Catholic schools welcome students into a global Catholic community sure to provide them with some sense of belonging — at the very least.

A successful Catholic school shows students how to think and how to live, yet it offers them the freedom to discover the Christian in themselves. My grade school and high school have done well with these tasks, and I am strongly considering attending a Catholic university next year to see these benefits at a much greater level. I know the community to which these other schools have introduced me will only get stronger, and I will continue to learn not just how to be a more intelligent person, but also a better one.

People are like shards of glass. By ourselves, we are fragile and not especially useful. We need each other to find meaning in our lives and to become that work of art that we all have the potential to join. To do this, we need some sort of community to be the solder that binds us and gives us a purpose.

There isn’t much solder stronger than a solid Catholic education. The schools lay the groundwork, but it’s up to us, the students, to decide what sort of masterpiece we want to become together.

(Jacob, a Dominican High School, Whitefish Bay, senior is the eldest of the four Scobey-Polacheck children.)