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Saving Santa Maria School
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by Tanja Cilia and Jennifer Gladen

October 30, 1950 was a dark and cloudy day in Winchester, England. Rita Harris looked forward to another day at Santa Maria School. The old school had been around for many years. Even Rita’s parents and grandparents went there.  

As Rita made her way into the classroom, she anticipated all the great things she’d learn about God that day. However, when Sister Francis, Rita’s teacher and Headmistress, entered the room, Rita knew something was very wrong. The frown on Sister’s face dampened Rita’s spirits.

“There’s no easy way to say this,” she said. “So I’m just going to tell you. There’s talk that our school will be torn down in a few months. They’re going to build new houses.”

Rita stood up. She couldn’t help herself. “What? Can’t they build somewhere else?”

Sister Francis shook her head. “Our building is old and in need of many repairs. It would cost too much to fix it. “

Rita glanced around her classroom. Everyone stared at the floor. The school had always been Rita’s favorite place. She wanted to learn everything she could from Sister Francis.

As the days passed by, Rita and her classmates grew sadder. She wished there was a way to save the school. She couldn’t bear to see the wonderful place torn down.

Rita couldn’t just sit by any longer. Soon it would be winter break and everyone would be assigned new schools. Their old school would be torn down. She needed to act fast if she were going to save Santa Maria School. 

One day, Rita talked to Sister Francis. “Isn’t there a way we can save the school?”

Sister Francis shook her head. “I’m sorry, dear. The only way we can save the school is if we prove we have the money to fix it up. Unfortunately, we don’t. I’m afraid everything is all set.”

Rita couldn’t believe her ears. How could Sister just give up?  There had to be a way to come up with the money needed to save the school. Maybe if she held a bake sale, she could donate her earnings to the school.

Over the weekend, Rita did just that. However, when she gave the envelope to Sister Francis on Monday, Sister smiled and thanked her. “But we’d need more than this. I’m afraid it’s just too much for us.”

Rita frowned. She wouldn’t hear of giving up the school without a fight. After school, she went around the neighborhood to collect donations. She walked around with her decorated coffee can with the words “Donations for Santa Maria School.” Neighbors were sad to hear of the news and gladly donated their spare change.


2008 Samantha Bell

On Tuesday morning, Rita brought in the coffee can, filled to the rim.

Sister Francis smiled. “This will help us. It may even buy some time to come up with the rest of the money we need. But how?”

 Rita thought about that question all through the day. She told her friends before class and they wanted to help. Rita smiled.“If we all work together, maybe we can come up with the money we need to save our school.”

 “We can go through our neighborhood and collect donations,” Theresa and Rose said.

Rita wondered what else she could do. She already collected money and held a bake sale. She needed something bigger. That’s when the idea hit her.

She stood up from her seat and went to the head of the class. “Listen, everyone. I think we can save our school. However, we need everyone’s help. We’re going to have a ‘Save Santa Maria Sale.’ Bring in anything your parents can donate for us to sell. We’ll also have treats for sale.” Everyone agreed that was a great idea.

News spread, and their sale ballooned into a great event that took over the schoolyard.

2008 Tanja Cilia, Jennifer Gladen


2008 Samantha Bell

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