Originally published on October 16, 2014, this article is reprinted with permission from the Michigan Catholic newspaper.

Fr. Daniel Pajerski LC and the Everest Collegiate High School Seniors

Catholic Central, Everest proud of unique Catholic school distinction

Detroit — That they were both named “Schools of Excellence” by the Catholic Education Honor Roll confirms that Detroit Catholic Central High School in Novi and Everest Collegiate High School in Clarkston have a lot in common.

But the rare honor — two of just 71 schools nationwide recognized this year by the Cardinal Newman Society — also speaks to the diversity of a true Catholic education, said an official at Everest.

“I find it interesting that the largest Catholic high school and one of the smallest Catholic high schools in the Archdiocese of Detroit were recognized with the same honor, confirming that faithfulness is more important than size,” said Everest’s executive director, Mike Nalepa.

Everest Collegiate’s enrollment this year is 115 (along with 390 in its academy), while Detroit Catholic Central’s enrollment is 1,080.

The Catholic High School Honor Roll awards schools for their “integration of Catholic identity throughout all aspects of their programs and excellence in academics,” and takes into account the diverse ways in which a high school incorporates the Catholic faith into its curriculum and overall program, understanding that what makes a school Catholic isn’t just theology classes or morning prayer.

“Since competition began in 2004, the Honor Roll has been a helpful tool for administrators, families, and benefactors in recognizing the quality of a Catholic high school education,” said Patrick J. Reilly, president of The Cardinal Newman Society. “The Honor Roll schools are a reminder that Catholic education is getting better every day — not only academically, but in the renewal of Catholic identity — and we are delighted to see the increased level of competition among the schools that participated in the program this year.”

Detroit Catholic Central High School was founded in 1928 by the Basilian Fathers, who continue to own and operate the school along with their sponsorship of Detroit Cristo Rey High School on the city’s southwest side. Everest Collegiate was founded in 2008 and is sponsored by the Legion of Christ.

“An important part of maintaining a faith-based academic environment across the curriculum requires exposing the faculty and staff to the Church’s teaching on Catholic education,” said Fr. John Huber, CSB, Catholic Central’s president, who has given workshops in several dioceses to administrators and faculty about Church documents, both from the Sacred Congregation on Catholic Education at the Vatican and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Despite their difference in size, officials at both Catholic Central and Everest said they recognize that the Catholic faith must be threaded through all activities of a Catholic high school, whether in the classroom, through the performing arts, athletics, and in activities with parents and alumni.

“Our understanding of education as a Catholic school leads us to use every opportunity that we have with our students as an opportunity to bring them closer to Christ and others,” said Nalepa, adding that every faculty, staff member, and coach is a catechist of the Catholic faith.

Everest Collegiate and Detroit Catholic Central also both received the award when it was last announced two years ago; it had been known as the “Top 50 Catholic High Schools” before the Cardinal Newman Society expanded the award to more than 50 schools.

Catholic Education Honor Roll criteria

Institutional commitment: The school demonstrates to its faculty, administration and community in its mission, policies, teaching, actions, and associations a commitment to Catholic ideals, attitudes, principles, and teaching

Mission-centered individuals: Every school leader, administrator, and faculty member is evaluated for a sincere commitment to enhance the faithful Catholic identity of the school. Every such individual is informed of the school’s Catholic identity and their responsibility to respect and promote that identity

Protecting the mission: The school’s policies and programs ensure the continued expression, preservation, and enhancement of the school’s Catholic identity and is prepared to address potential obstacles and both internal and external threats to that identity.