On Sept. 4, 1996, 40 children walked through the doors of the newly opened St. Francis Catholic School. Today, those students — and the hundreds who have followed in their footsteps — are reaping the rewards of a faith-based education rooted in traditional Catholic academic excellence.
“St. Francis couldn’t have done more to prepare me for high school,” said Devin McGuiness, one of the “original 40” and now in his final year at The Notre Dame Law School. “It was the best starting point I could have had.”
This year, St. Francis is celebrating 20 years of success. In the past two decades, the school has grown into a thriving pre-kindergarten through eighth-grade school. Its campus, located on Beach City Road on Hilton Head Island, encompasses three academic buildings — including a large library, science and computer labs, a fine arts building, and a 15,000-square-foot gym with stage. Promethean interactive whiteboards and Apple TVs have replaced chalkboards, and middle school students are now issued iPads as well as textbooks.
“We’ve had significant growth and expansion thanks to our dedicated parents and parishioners,” said principal Brian Pope. “The willingness to give of their time, talent and treasure, which began with our founders, has continued to today.” The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools-accredited school now has more than 200 students and 20 staff members.
St. Francis Catholic School focuses on developing the whole child — spiritually, academically, physically, emotionally and socially — by providing faith formation activities, competitive athletic teams, a comprehensive fine arts program, academic and extracurricular clubs and competitions, as well as community fellowship events throughout the year.
The school has earned a reputation for academic excellence; it produces a higher percentage of South Carolina Junior Scholars among its eighth-graders than the state average, and the majority of eighth-graders earn high school credit in honors algebra, physical science and Spanish I. Graduates have earned International Baccalaureate diplomas, been accepted into the prestigious Governor’s School, and excelled in advanced high school courses. Alumni can be found living all across the U.S. and overseas. The second generation of students, whose parents are alumni, now walk the school’s hallways.
St. Francis will celebrate its anniversary during its annual gala — appropriately themed “Roaring ’20s” — on April 29. The event includes live and silent auctions as well as a dinner dance at the Sonesta Resort Hilton Head Island. Tickets are available in the school and parish offices.