OBSERVER Staff Writer

The gym flooded with the rich aroma of breakfast pizza and Timbits as eager students and proud parents and grandparents filled the tables during National Catholic School Week held at the Northern Chautauqua Catholic School Thursday morning.

National Catholic School Week allows schools to celebrate Catholic education and focus on its values as a community; it is celebrated at the start of the last Sunday of January every year.

The breakfast is a way to bring in the community, which greatly supports the school, and say “thank you.”

First-year Principal John Georger said the job has been very enjoyable.

“It is nice to have parents spending the morning with their children,” he said. “The thing I enjoy the most is the level of parent involvement.”

Georger said the parents help a lot with fund raisers throughout the year.

Teacher aide Becky Giambra said she loves being there.

“The teachers are all amazing,”she said. “It is very important to be able to celebrate (Catholic schools) and to come together as one big family for the school.”

Giambra said she helps with the pre-k 4 class and is amazed by their growth.

“It is amazing how they grow and become more independent,” she said.

Giambra said no one is ever alone during the breakfast.

“We make sure each student has someone to sit with,” she said. “One of the teachers will sit with them if no parents or grandparents can make it.”

The breakfast pizza was donated by One Stop and the Timbits were donated by Tim Hortons, since both companies know of someone who goes to the school.

“The community really comes together for this,” Giambra said. “The students talked about it all week and really look forward to this breakfast.”

The school began its celebration of National Catholic School Week by playing Jeopardy, conducting a living rosary, having a special Mass and a Veneration Service for Blessed John Paul II.

Georger said the former pope is on his way to saint hood.

“If a pope has three documented miracles they become a saint,” he said. “All the kids participate and there is a celebration of his life, which shows kids the important part of being Catholic.”

Kindergarten Teacher Kelly Murphy said she enjoyed doing the living rosary with her students.

“Kids got a lot out of it,” she said. “We get to celebrate our faith.”

Becky Conti said the gift of a Catholic education is something to be cherished.

“It is so nice to have the community support us,” she said. “Everything is connected and that is what you hope for; the connection goes on for many generations.”

Forestville resident Barbara Edwards said her granddaughter loves the school.

“She gets a good education and it is close to her home,” she said.

Cassadaga resident Delores Duvois said it is a nice atmosphere.

“You are guaranteed a good education here,” she said.

Dunkirk resident Janet Opacinch said she enjoys the school.

“People really come together and share with the children,” she said.

Dunkirk resident Tom Mleczko said he enjoys having breakfast with his granddaughter and grandson.

“I was in Catholic school for eight years and had no problems with it,” he said.

NCCS Librarian Andrea Gestwicki said all seven of her children went to NCCS.

“This school is home and it is like serving breakfast to family,” she said. “It is a great place to be.”

Gestwicki showed OBSERVER around the school and spoke of the plaque that was made in her honor.

“I have been a librarian here for 16 years and a plaque was made to dedicate the library in my name,” she said. “It honors my dedication here.”

Joanne Pantano said Conti asked her to help serve Thursday.

“All three of my kids went here and I didn’t mind helping at all,” she said. “Becky always calls me when she needs someone to help.”

Jane Kall said she didn’t mind volunteering her help either.

“I had three kids who went here,” she said. “If you go here God honors that and does everything.”

Comments on this story may be sent to jwillis@observertoday.com