In Your Midst

A BEACON TO OTHERS: ST. JOSEPH SCHOOL

Summer 2002

It’s the last week of school. It’s sunny and 70 degrees outside, hardly a day to think about fog, darkness, or the need for a beacon. Yet for the students and staff at St. Joseph Catholic School on Capitol Hill, the school year - including these sunny last few days - has been suffused with images of beacons lighting the way for and guiding others.

In This Issue:

The school’s choice for this year’s theme was “A Beacon to Others” and used the symbol of a lighthouse to remind students that they are all called upon to bring light into the world. Students were asked to break barriers between race, religion, and ethnicity to produce a single, brilliant light that would pierce the densest fog. And they were each exhorted by Principal George Hofbauer to “Come along and let your true light shine.”

St. Joseph Parish was established on Capitol Hill in 1904 as a Jesuit mission to serve the surrounding community. It became a parish in 1907 and opened a school, for boys only, that same year.

As the school grew, it moved first into the church basement and then, when it outgrew that space, into a four-story red brick building next to the parish rectory. Girls began attending St. Joseph’s in the 1950s when nearby Holy Names Academy eliminated their grade school and enlarged their high school program. A second school building was added at that time. St. Joseph has continued to grow with major renovations of classrooms and a new gymnasium in the 1980s and 2000.


The classrooms at St. Joseph are often a jumble of students, art projects, and works in progress.

Today, St. Joseph is the largest school in the Archdiocese, serving 625 students from over 400 families, and in turn is a bustling and exciting place.

In addition to a strong academic program comprised of three classes at each grade level, the school boasts a full-time, fully-staffed Learning Resource Room to help students who need a little extra assistance with their work. It has a nationally recognized middle-school choral program that performs each year at special venue like Carnigie Hall, Disneyland or Whistler, British Columbia.

Parents and friends of the school are the coaches, scorekeepers and drivers for an extensive after-school CYO athletic program. This experience is available for boys and girls, with several different sports teams for each class.

The school offers an extended care program before and after school for families that need child care. And, for the first time during the 2001-2002 school year, St. Joseph launched an after school enrichment program, with chess, drama, foreign language, and other extracurricular opportunities for students seeking a productive way to spend their afternoons.

Every year, each family signs on to complete 24 volunteer hours for the school. These can be completed in the CYO sports programs, field trips or through classroom assistance.

Since St. Joseph’s location on Capitol Hill puts it in the midst of Seattle’s old mansions, the school could easily focus only on the needs of its affluent neighbors. But, mindful of the charge to students to be beacons of light for others, the school, along with its larger parish community, has reached out to the community to make the school and the parish welcoming for all. Each year St. Joseph budgets over $250,000 in financial aid to students who would not otherwise be able to attend, and works hard to sustain diversity among its student body.


St. Joseph’s playground at recess is a flurry of moving bodies, shooting hoops, or just running.

St. Joseph is a founding member of the Rainbow School Project. It began in the early 1980s when Catholic schools were having a difficult time, and in some cases closing due to lack of funds. The 12 central city parishes formed a core to support five parish schools - St. Edward, St. George, St. Joseph, St. Paul, and St. Therese. Children from St. James can attend any of the Rainbow Schools for the parishioner tuition rate as a result of that support. This past year, 24 children from St. James attended St. Joseph, adding their own individual lights to the beacon shining brightly from Capitol Hill.

Mary Bourguignon is  St. James Cathedral parishioner and a member of the Pastoral Committee.

This is the second is a series of articles about the Rainbow Schools Project.

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