During the dog days of summer, Isla Young found herself feeling something completely new—excitement about the return of school. It would be her second year at Prince of Peace and her first as a middle school student. “I just can’t wait for school to start,” the 12-year-old said repeatedly, somewhat to the surprise of her parents, David and Carrie Young. To say that Isla’s feelings were not nearly so positive the year prior would be a huge understatement.
Having attended public schools her entire life, Isla was devastated by the prospect of the upcoming change. A member of a Baptist church in Greer, Isla had only occasionally attended Prince of Peace, and Catholicism was largely foreign to her. She did not like the idea of uniforms, new rules, private school, or leaving all her friends behind. However, her parents decided a change was necessary. Isla’s grades, sense of self, and her understanding of the curriculum, necessitated a drastic intervention.
Today, Isla has advice for any public student who is transferring to Prince of Peace. “Don’t be afraid,” she says. “When I found out I was going to Prince of Peace Catholic School, I thought it was the worst thing that ever happened to me. But once I got into my classroom, everyone was so welcoming.”
Looking back at her time in public school, Isla now recognizes how much she was struggling. “The teachers would tell you what you would be learning that day, and then put you behind the Chromebook and you were left to basically teach yourself.” Prince of Peace teachers, Isla says, “are creative. And they care whether or not you understand, and they want you to ask questions. If you don’t understand, they work with you until you do.”
In addition to engaged teachers, Isla has benefitted from being held accountable. “At my old school, I never did my homework,” she confesses. Of course, the changes in Isla’s study habits didn’t happen overnight. “If you don’t do your homework at Prince of Peace, they care. Mrs. Marlar had to take me out into the hallway two or three times, and it was so embarrassing! But she wasn’t mad at me, she asked why I hadn’t gotten it done, and what could we do so I wouldn’t forget. She helped me.”
David Young says he feels far more confident about Isla’s future now that she has embraced her education at Prince of Peace. “I was fearful she was getting lost,” he says. “Now she has a much better outlook toward school and life in general.” David, who is Baptist, also appreciates his daughter’s Catholic education. “It is important to me that she is surrounded by Christ-loving students and a positive environment. Public school was a mix of influences, many of which I found concerning.”
Isla has also come to enjoy the religious education found at her Catholic school. Not only does she feel that the spiritual structure at Prince of Peace improves the learning experience, as it fosters discipline and good work habits, but that the focus on faith leads to an overall wellbeing. “When you walk into Prince of Peace, everyone is happy,” she says. There is a feeling of safety she did not have in public school.
As it turns out, the sixth grader has a special affection for Latin—something she would never have anticipated a year ago—and often says the blessing before the family meal in Latin. “Getting to learn a new language has been fun!” Isla enthuses. She is excited to branch out in the future, with the goal of mastering Spanish and French.
A creative person with a natural aptitude for visual arts, writing and music, Isla had historically found math to be a tough subject. This was borne out by her MAP scores at the beginning of the year, which found Isla in the 57th percentile. She had quite a hill to climb in mathematics. But climb it she did, with Mrs. Marlar’s help. The end of the year MAP test saw Isla had risen to the 87th percentile.
“It is so important for students to be known,” says Isla’s mom Carrie. “At Prince of Peace, Isla came to be known by her teachers, who cared deeply about her success, and because they cared, so did Isla. I cannot imagine a greater gift than to instill a love of learning, and I believe that is the gift Mrs. Marlar gave to Isla.”
When asked to think about what life would be like had she continued in public school, and never gone to Prince of Peace, Isla pauses for several moments, then says, “Honestly, I’d probably be pretty messed up. How do I put that into words?” When it is suggested that she just did so, Isla nods and gives a thumbs up.