The Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston has announced a major milestone in the fundraising efforts for the planned St. Peter Catholic Career and Technical High School on the south side of Houston—the first of its kind in the state of Texas.
Its PreK3-8 predecessor, St Peter the Apostle Catholic School, was closed in 2019 after serving the area’s predominantly African-American population for 77 years. The tentative plan for a vocational school was revealed at the time of the shuttering, and a monetary goal was eventually set for earlier this summer.
“We met the June 30th deadline and have raised over $6.6 million for the renovation to begin,” AGH Development Coordinator Rhonda Bean told BCM on July 7th, noting that the total amounts to more than half the funds needed.
“We are very excited and know that there is fantastic interest in this school.”
The plan for St Peter Tech was officially announced on February 22nd, with the archdiocese later noting partnerships with local businesses, including the nearby Texas Medical Center—the largest medical complex in the world.
By May 25th, the archdiocese had raised more than $4 million.
“Our goal is to provide an affordable Catholic education for students who want to develop the skills they need to become working professionals after high school graduation,” said Cardinal Daniel DiNardo in a press release.
Official renderings of the school picture a state-of-the-art facility making use of the existing 10-acre campus, located near both the University of Houston and Texas Southern University, an HBCU. Next door is the former elementary school’s sponsoring parish, St Peter the Apostle Catholic Church (run by the Josephites until 1997).
An advisory board made up of local businesspeople and other stakeholders handled the planning process for St Peter Tech and includes among its members St Peter’s pastor Fr Evaristus Chukwu, MSP and two African Americans: local businessman Raymond “Raybo” Bourgeois and Dr. Nicole McZeal Walters of the University of St Thomas.
Walters, who serves as dean of the Kolbe School of Innovation and Professional Studies, noted that her own background of Catholic education helped her get on board with the vision for the new school.
“We are preparing students to compete in a global society with a Catholic lens of faith and dignity of the human person,” she said in the archdiocese's press release.
“I see the value and merit in what we’re doing. It is our gift to this community.”
St Peter Tech will aim to provide a “low-cost, Catholic-centered, technical education” with the opportunity for certifications and internships in the field(s) of their choice. In that way, the school falls squarely within the tradition of uplift which has historically characterized the Church’s educational outreach in the US—especially with African Americans.
“Catholic schools are an important source of strength, hope and opportunity to our families and their children,” Dinardo and Superintendent of Catholic Schools Debra Haney said in a joint letter.
“No institution has been more successful than the Catholic school system in leading generations out of poverty to bright, promising and fulfilling lives.”
Career and technical education (CTE) has become a more popular route for some young Americans as modern career paths become more diverse, and given the consistent earning opportunities available in traditional trades. African-American males have also seen particular benefits in graduation rates in a CTE environment, according to studies.
There are currently only two vocational high schools in Houston, the public Dr. Kirk Lewis Career and Technical High School and Blanson CTE High. The archdiocese says St Peter Tech will be able to accommodate up to 200 students during its first phase, scheduled to begin with 50 freshman students in the 2023-24 academic year.
“As enrollment grows, Phase 2 would add a transportation, distribution and logistics career path, while Phase 3 would add health, science and pharmacy technology,” it said.
The school is currently seeking additional sponsors, including for naming rights, and direct donations can be made with the archdiocese here or by calling (713) 741-8704. Interested parents or guardians can sign up for admission alerts on the St Peter Tech website.
Nate Tinner-Williams is co-founder and editor of Black Catholic Messenger, a seminarian with the Josephites, and a ThM student with the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University of Louisiana (XULA).