Children representing each grade level took part in the gym groundbreaking.
By HAROLD GWIN
VINDICATOR EDUCATION WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- The 400 children wearing yellow hard hats and sporting paper cutouts of small yellow shovels dangling from their necks were in a jovial mood.
After all, it isn't every day that schoolchildren get to be the centerpiece of an $850,000 groundbreaking for a new building.
The children, pupils at St. Christine Elementary School at 3125 S. Schenley Ave., attended a special Mass commemorating the event in St. Christine Church. They then donned their hard hats to march from the church to the location of a new gymnasium that will be added to the school.
There, they took center stage, and many of them actually got to take part in the groundbreaking ceremony.
The children are the reason they do this, said Atty. Richard LaCivita, building committee chairman.
Believing in Catholic education and this parish brought them all together, he told the group of pupils and about 200 parents and parish members who attended.
"Our dream is finally coming true," said Doreen DeMarco, school principal. "It is the spirit of St. Christine that made this day possible."
St. Christine's, on the city's West Side, is the sole remaining Catholic elementary school in Youngstown.
"It's more than a project. It really looks to the future," said Dr. Michael Skube, schools superintendent for the Diocese of Youngstown. "You're building on the school and the parish."
A select number of children representing each grade were invited to come forward, and using tiny golden shovels, they placed dirt into glass candle holders to be kept in their classrooms until the gym is finished.
The dirt from the candle holders will then be placed around a tree to be planted next to the gym.
As the ceremony came to a close, the St. Christine cheerleaders, waving their purple and gold pompoms, led the pupils in a series of cheers.
Monsignor David W. Rhodes, St. Christine's pastor, pointed out to the pupils that the entire school cost just $850,000 when it was built 50 years ago. That's the exact price of the new gym, he added.
The gym is part of a larger parish building project, LaCivita said, noting that the gym and a new social hall already under construction adjacent to the church have a combined cost of $2.4 million.
The parish is spending an additional $600,000 in interior renovations at the school, primarily revamping its Gutman Hall as the new cafeteria, he said.
St. Christine's has 2,850 parish families, and all of the money to fund the projects has been pledged by parishioners, LaCivita said.
The gym, scheduled for completion in just 90 to 120 days, will serve both the school and the parish at large, he said.
The project doesn't include lockers or bleachers for the building. That will come later in separate fund-raising events, he added.