Sister Joan Of Arc Souza
Just like the patron saint of France for whom she is named, Sister Joan of Arc Souza is a formidable leader.
She has carried on a strict rule at St. Francis School in place since the 1970s since becoming head of the school 19 years ago, a tactic she says strengthens her “troops” for the real world.
“They have to do 100 hours of service between ninth and 12th grade, and all they get is a thank you. No exceptions,” explains Souza, herself a ‘61 graduate of the school. “They need to learn that part of being a good person is to give back, to help wherever they can. If they’re here from seventh through 12th grade, then they’re gonna do it for six years, and hopefully it becomes a part of something that they just do as adults.”
From coaching sports to volunteering their time to local nonprofits and hospitals, students must immerse themselves in doing good for others outside their home and school environments. Souza admits that some get so into their chosen project that they go above and beyond, accumulating more than 300 hours of community service - and a special white cord at graduation.
But that’s nothing compared to the big group project each Lenten season that has the entire school body come together in support of one cause.
While previous projects have included collecting toothpaste for prisoners and sponsoring missions in South America, this past year the 385 girls decided to aid fellow St. Francis alumna - and Filipina movie star - Sheena Joy Malbog with a project close to her heart. They collected more than 600 stuffed animals for the children’s ward at the Philippines Orthopedic Center, which Malbog, her father and students from Asia Pacific College distributed in June. In fact, the St. Francis students collected so many toys, there were enough left over for several other hospitals in Metro Manila.
“Some of these children are terminal, some of them are amputees,” Souza recalls. “We were just so thrilled when we saw the video and we saw them receiving the toys and, of course, the smiles on their faces.”
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