At St. Louis Catholic High, six houses but one home

Published 8:58 am Sunday, March 17, 2024

In an effort to foster camaraderie, responsibility and respect in students, St. Louis Catholic High School has a system that creates six houses, but one home.

At the start of each school year, new St. Louis students are randomly assigned one of six houses. These houses are named after Catholic Saints: St. Augustine, Saint Cecilia, St. Elmo, St. Joan of Arc, St. John Paul II and Saint Josephine. Each house has its own emblem and colors. Once “sorted,” the students are members of that house throughout their time at the school.

House System Director and AP Human Geography Teacher Alex Kjellsten said instituting house systems has been a popular practice at high schools in England since the early 2000s. The concept has slowly migrated across the Atlantic Ocean.

“Since then, it has diffused throughout Europe and has recently made its way into the United States where more schools throughout the USA have started to pick up on it.”

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A few years ago, faculty members at St. Louis heard about the House System through the grapevine and conducted research. In a moment of serendipity, they found out about a House System symposium in St. Louis, Mo. The three faculty members who attended the symposium brought the system back to the school and instituted it.

The goal is to promote intersectional development in students’ high school life — athletics, ministry, service, leadership and academics.

“The House System allows students to strive for academic excellence, as well as strengthening our faith. Through the House System, all students have the opportunity to become the best version of themselves. It gives every student,” he said.

This is the third year that the system has been instituted, he said, and it has led to an increase of community on campus. Since each house includes students from all four grade levels, students who otherwise would have never interacted are able to create deeper bonds with each other.

Julie Miller, a volunteer with the house system, said that this is one of the greatest benefits of the system.

“The chance to get to know peers at every grade level is one of the most important things to me, socially

Throughout the week, students go to their designated house classrooms (sometimes donned in their houses’ t-shirts) to meet with their peers and House leaders.

The system is hierarchical.  Kjellsten oversees the six houses, and there is one dean for each house. The houses are divided into four mentor groups of 20 to 25 students each. There is one mentor teacher that oversees each group of students.

Akin to the student council, each mentor group has two to three elected student leadership committee members. The student leaders are in charge of planning the day to day activities during the House periods. Miller said one of the best aspects of the house system is that it is a student-led “learning-leadership program” in which “activities are planned from the bottom up.”

The mentor groups support tight-knit relationships between students and their teachers. She said that the teachers are able to learn about students at a “much more personal level.”

“The students are able to communicate with the mentors as helpers for all kinds of things.”

The mentors can offer academic, social and personal help to their students in an one-on-one way that wouldn’t be possible with the Houses’ mentor groups.

Throughout the year, the houses participate in friendly competitions to earn points to “highlight the achievements of a Saint – mind, body and spirit.” At the end of the academic year, the highest-earning house is named the champion.

The competitions are designed to engage the student body in “events focused on faith, service, knowledge, athleticism, discipline and other facets of being a Saint.” Miller said that some of the activities that occurred this year include dodgeball, tug-of-war, musical chairs.

The houses also participate in community-based volunteer activities. Earlier this year, they packaged and delivered over 1,000 bags of goods to firefighters fighting the various wildfires that took place in Beauregard and Vernon parishes, she said.

Once per year, house-specific groups also participate in one day off-campus retreats.