Learning & growing

Avyah Manko, left, and Christine Kraska, as kindergartners at St. Gabe’s School in 2016

It takes a village to raise a child, as the saying goes, or, in the case of Saint Gabriel of the Sorrowful Virgin Catholic School, some help from the neighbors.

When students returned this fall, teachers wanted to hold some socially-distanced classes outside. But the parish property in Whitehall doesn’t have a lot of green space. Principal Don Militzer said neighbors ended up offering the use of their yards so the students could spread out.

“Everyone has been helping to keep our students safe and learning,” Militzer told Father Tom Burke on the diocesan radio program Catholic Education Plus. “Students, parents and teachers are working together, and we’re getting good guidance from the diocese and county health department.”

Catholic Education Plus airs Sunday, December 20 at 6:30 a.m. on KDKA-AM 1020. Podcasts are available here.

“Cyber-learning has been a journey, but our staff has responded beautifully,” Militzer said. “About 10 percent of our students are learning from home, and it’s going smoothly, thanks in part to an improved technical infrastructure.”

Opened in 1950, Saint Gabriel School has a solid reputation for academic, athletic and extracurricular excellence, and enjoys strong support from parishioners.

“The family atmosphere starts with Father John (Skirtich, pastor of Our Lady of Hope Parish), and continues through the faculty,” Militzer said. “It’s an atmosphere where students can thrive and succeed.”

St. Gabe’s mission statement reads in part, “Christ is the reason for this school. He is the unseen, but ever-present teacher in its classes. He is the model of its faculty and the inspiration of its students.

Principal Don Militzer, St. Gabriel School

Fundraising for the school has been strong, despite the pandemic, and students also continue to support the community, raising money for UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, nursing homes, and the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul.

“It’s a protective environment,” Militizer said. “We’re able to talk about God and acceptance of one another. It’s true—it does take a community to raise a child.”   

Photo of students: Emily Kraska, XO Photography