The students at Elk County Catholic High School always seem to be involved with something, whether collecting canned food for the Christian Food Bank or traveling to the Dominican Republic for a week-long mission trip. While members of the community are well aware of the students' efforts to assist others, the school is now getting some national recognition after a video of its ECHO (Elk Catholic Helping Others) program was selected as one of five honorees in the 2011-2012 Charity and Social Service Honors program held by the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.
ECHO was created as the blanket category for all of the service projects that are participated in by members of the school.
Fr. Ross Miceli, campus minister at ECC, acted as an advisor for seniors Sara Kucenski and Jon Leuschel as they created the video several months ago, and explained that the results were finally released last week.
"The award is not only an honor for our students, faculty, and staff, but really for the entire community that gives us that opportunity to serve and to be with them. We are so blessed to have so many organizations in which to partner which, especially concerning the gospel, and to bring the good news to everyone because it's not only Elk Catholic Helping Others, but about Elk County Helping Others, and indeed Every Christian Helping Others, and even Every Citizen Helping Others. We really want it to be a pay-it-forward experience for so many people," Miceli said.
According to the national shrine's website, "the Charity and Social Service Honors Program is a biennial honors program that was established by the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in 2009 to honor 'charity in action' as urged by Pope Benedict XVI to the youth of our nation during his Apostolic Visit to the United States in April 2008."
In order to enter the competition, students had to produce a three-minute video, PowerPoint or slide show explaining the charity and social services efforts that they or their schools engaged in.
Miceli remarked that he, Kucenski, and Leuschel looked at the videos that were submitted for the inaugural round of the competition and thought that they could create a competitive entry.
"We submitted our video to the diocesan level first, and the diocese had to nominate us," Miceli said. "We were against some other schools from the diocese, and then our video was sent to Washington, D.C. to be judged at the national level."
In addition to Elk County Catholic, the four other honorees for the 2011-2012 Charity and Social Service Honors program are Miss Alexandra Lee Smith from the Diocese of Atlanta, Saint Catherine Academy from the Diocese of Bridgeport, Aquin Senior High School from the Diocese of Rockford, and Red Bank Catholic High School from the Diocese of Trenton.
Leuschel and Kucenski will travel to Washington, D.C. in April to be presented with the Charity and Social Service Honors medal during the Basilica's Solemn Mass.
"Since it is the whole school [that won], they are our representatives, so they'll be going to it. We'll have to figure out all the details as that becomes available," Miceli said.
Both Kucenski and Leuschel remarked that they were "really excited" that their video resulted in ECC being selected as one of this year's honorees.
"We were just really fortunate to be chosen as the representatives of the school," Leuschel said.
Miceli explained that the duo was chosen because of their strong commitment to community service.
"We couldn't have the whole school put it together, so I asked Sara and Jon because of their outstanding service in our school already, and their commitment to our Catholic education and all these different services that we offer to the community," Miceli said. "It was really a student-led production. Everything was done by them. They were just a great team and wonderful students to work with."
Pick up a copy of the Saturday, March 3, 2012 edition of The Ridgway Record for more.