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St. Cecilia Students Make Top Shelf Marks for Inaugural Top Chef Fundraiser

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by M.D. Pitman

An eighth-grade class trip to Washington, D.C., often rounds out a student’s elementary education, and making an experience like this happen can “level the playing field when it comes to education,” said Michael Goedde, principal of St. Cecilia School in Oakley.

The school’s graduating eighthgraders will make their trip to D.C. near the end of the school year, and Goedde said, “You never know the interest that gets sparked when seeing something, experiencing it first-hand.”

But the way the students raised the money for the trip is probably more unique and special than their trip to the nation’s capital, Goedde said. This year’s St. Cecilia eighth-grade dinner was
modeled after Bravo TV Network’s Top Chef, a television reality chef show. Blue and Gold teams were blindly selected, and the Gold team won two of the three rounds (appetizer and dessert).

“It was more than raising money for Washington, D.C.,” Goedde said. “That night, I think, was far more important than the money that was raised.”

The students were pulled out of their comfort zones, playing hosts and servers to adults.

“They’re doing things that they’ve never done before. We trained them, and they had to interact with adults. It was new for them.”

Julissa Longinos, a 14-year-old from Pleasant Ridge, said it was a fun experience to share with her friends and teachers, and she really enjoyed “working with people” and playing the different roles, like server and host, “and just taking care of people.”

Gerald Bouldin, a 15-year-old student from Madisonville, said while he was nervous at the start of the night, he was able to relax as it went on. However, their hopes weren’t high before dinner started.

“The dinner actually went smoother than a lot of students expected it to,” he said. “We expected it to go downhill very fast.”

It didn’t, said Goedde, and it was so successful the school will have the same format for next year’s eighth-grade fundraising dinner.

It wasn’t just a novel experience just for the students. The entire staff joined in – either as part of one of the two teams or as patrons enjoying the meals – which turned out to be “a great teambuilding activity for them,” Goedde said.

“And I think it’s great the students saw that staff was committed and dedicated to doing that for them,” Goedde said. “They saw the staff cooking, they saw the staff planning. They worked with staff training. So, for me, that’s why that’s so unique and special.”

“And for the staff, it was competitive and fun, there was some light-hearted bantering, and everyone wanted to be a successful night.”

“And it just shows a different way teachers are committed and dedicated to their kids, and I think it’s gone a long way in letting our kids see that.”

St. Cecilia School is positioned between Norwood, Madisonville and Fairfax, a diverse socioeconomic area of Cincinnati.

“I wanted to make sure that students who may not have the advantages of other families at other schools were still able to do trips like this because I think they’re important,” he said.

Longinos and Bouldin both said they’re interested in seeing the memorials for the U.S. wars, such as Vietnam and the World Wars.

For Longinos, American history is “intriguing.”

“It’s interesting to me to know about the history from back then,” she said.

Bouldin also wants to see where Martin Luther King, Jr., made his famous “I Have a Dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial overlooking the Reflecting Pool. “I really wish I could experience what is going on in D.C., now and in the past,” he said.

There were multiple fundraisers students participated in throughout the year for their D.C. trip.

Goedde said they students will go on a lot of tours, visit memorials and museums and see a lot of the nation’s history because “we are going to provide them with a quality education as good
as they’re going to get anywhere else.”

“I come from that mindset you’ve got to give all kids those opportunities, and any opportunities you can present them with that can level the educational landscape are good,” Goedde said. “And
it allows them to see things they may otherwise they’d never see.”

Additionally, it’s “a nice trip to end their time together as eighth-graders, and their time here at St. Cecilia,” he said.

The trip is at the end of May, then when students come back they’ll have a couple of days of school before they graduate the following week.


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