Saint John Paul II Academy, which launched in a community centre this fall with 17 Grade 8 students, is enjoying wholehearted support from donors and families. A new building for the academy is set to be built by the time these students enter Grade 11. Photo courtesy of Saint John Paul II Academy

Surrey community rallies behind new Catholic school

By  Agnieszka Ruck, Canadian Catholic News
  • February 14, 2019

The Saint John Paul II Academy community is larger than the school’s modest membership would seem to suggest.

Though the brand-new Catholic high school includes only 17 students and five staff members, families across the Lower Mainland and especially in Surrey, B.C., are showing their support in big ways.

Donors have been coming forward with hundreds of thousands of dollars to help the school get on its feet, says Troy Van Vliet, principal of Tavan Developments and chairman of the Saint John Paul II Foundation. “It’s a massive vote of confidence.” 

Joseph and Holly King, members of Star of the Sea Parish in Surrey and parents of four, donated $500,000 to the foundation. They told The B.C. Catholic when they moved from Seattle to White Rock in 2013, they hoped to transfer their children from St. Madeleine Sophie School in Washington to a Catholic school in their new neighbourhood.

“We were very happy to see that there was an excellent Catholic elementary school close to our new home in our parish,” but the nearest Catholic high schools were far away and near capacity, said Joseph King. 

When the Kings noticed the need for a high school and heard that there was one in the works, but needing financial help, they offered their significant donation. “For the Church to grow, we need to invest in infrastructure, just as prior generations and donors have established our existing churches and schools.”

Their eldest child entered Saint John Paul II Academy as one of its first Grade 8 students in the fall of 2018. Yet, other families who do not have high-school-aged children are also helping out. The Wilkie family donated $250,000 to the foundation and others have put up the $25,000 refundable enrolment deposit for students who are not even related to them.

“There are a lot of people who believe in this program,” said Van Vliet. “It’s already a success. It’s now just a matter of how fast we are going to build our new physical facility.”

The Saint John Paul II Academy is currently run at a community centre at Star of the Sea Church as plans are worked out to build a brand-new high school with classrooms for hundreds of students, a gymnasium, a track and administrative offices.

Van Vliet estimates the capital campaign will seek to raise about $15 million and the new home for Saint John Paul II Academy will be ready by the time its current Grade 8 students enter Grade 11.

“We’re not ‘going to be a school.’ We already are a school,” just without a permanent structure, said Van Vliet.

He is excited about building the new school for his community, and for his two daughters.

“My kids are going to a great elementary school: Star of the Sea. The continuation of that not being available in the South Surrey and White Rock area motivated me, for my two daughters, to have that great Catholic school legacy continue.”

The official launch of the capital campaign is expected in February.

(The B.C. Catholic)

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