Students Thank Benefactors and Celebrate the Blessing of Catholic Education


By Tony DeGol

Thanksgiving is still a few weeks away, but for Hans Esteban, the gratitude is flowing a little early this year.

A senior at Bishop McCort Catholic High School in Johnstown, Esteban is quick to point out how much he loves being a Crusher.

“I’ve made a lot of friends, and I can express my faith at this school,” he emphasized.

His story, like so many of our outstanding Catholic school students, is a special one.

Esteban’s parents were born in Guatemala and eventually came to the United States. He was born in North Carolina and moved to Johnstown when he was seven. Esteban attended the former Saint Andrew School in Johnstown from second grade until high school.

“I know that being a Bishop McCort student is going to open a lot of doors for me in the future,” he admitted. “The reason I know this is because our education is different from other schools. The teachers here are always willing to help, and they’re always pushing us to be better. I’m really happy here because everybody is like a family to me.”

The experience of faith, family, and academic achievement – for Esteban and many other students – is made possible thanks to endowments, named scholarships, and Pennsylvania educational tax credits.

During an annual luncheon on October 25, students once again had the opportunity to meet and personally thank their benefactors for their support of Catholic education. 

“Without your generosity, I probably wouldn’t be here,” admitted Esteban, an endowment beneficiary.

“This is one of our favorite events of the school year,” remarked Mary Clare Piatak, McCort teacher and mistress of ceremonies for the luncheon. “We get to share stories and good news since we were together last.”

The energy in the room was contagious, noticed McCort Director of Advancement Tina Mirilovich.

“Each of our donors brings a special feeling with them each year, and that special feeling is generosity,” she noted. “With your acts of kindness towards our students, you inspire us to go out and make the world a better place.”

Principal Tom Smith echoed praise and thanks to the benefactors, and he could barely contain his Crusher pride as he shared facts about the school including the 100 percent graduation rate and 100 percent college acceptance rate. Ninety seven percent of McCort graduates go to a four-year college, while three percent enter the military or technical school.

“Perhaps the most important number is that zero percent are lost to the streets of Johnstown,” Smith boasted.

Indeed, the impressive statistics are important to parents such as Tracy Murin, whose daughter, Melissa, is a named scholarship recipient.

“Ever since she started here at McCort, she has continued to grow and achieve more than I can ever expect,” Murin explained. “Your generous contributions have allowed her to explore her interests, whether it was art, dance, theatre, science, or volunteering in our community.”

As for Esteban, he is looking to the future with optimism.  

He continues to college-shop, and he plans to study cyber security or computer science.

“Look for me in the world of technology – I will keep your data safe,” Esteban assured. “And it is all because of my Bishop McCort launching pad.”

[Top photo: McCort students delight the crowd with song.]

[First inset photo: Senior Hans Esteban shares his McCort story.]

[Second inset photo: A McCort student poses with supporters during the lunch.]