By CHRISTOPHER ORLET
Vandals may have broken 35 windows at Sister Thea Bowman Grade School, but the small, yet thriving Catholic school in East St. Louis has shown that its spirit is unbreakable.
A random act of destruction, which occurred the night before school opened in 2015, began a magical chain of events for the school community.
Within hours of the destruction, the school’s phones were ringing as alumni, businesses, individuals and local organizations inquired about helping. Soon the school administrators were in full fund-raising mode as they worked to raise the $300,000 necessary for new unbreakable, energy efficient windows.
Now, more than two years later, and after months of enduring boarded up windows, the school has replaced all the broken windows, and is well on its way to replacing the last remaining original windows. This time with unbreakable glass. The school still needs to raise about $80,000 to complete the third and final phase of the project. Ameren, which donated $20,000 for Phase II, has promised to help out with Phase III, as well.
To demonstrate the power of the new windows, the principal climbed into an Ameren bucket truck and dropped one of the chunks of concrete the vandals used. From a height of well over 100 feet, the concrete bounced off the window, leaving the glass unscathed.
At a media event celebrating the end of Phase II of the window replacement, Nickerson talked of the importance of the school to the East St. Louis community. According to the principal, 92 percent of his grade school students go on to college. In addition, every student takes violin lessons. “We give them a good foundation to succeed. We tell them to remember who they are and whose they are.”
For the Thea Bowman community, there was never any thought of retaliation. “In the spirit of Sister Thea Bowman, we are peacemakers,” said Principal Dan Nickerson. The school immediately prayed for the vandals.