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Geibel to celebrate 40 years:High school continues working to provide students with a solid academic foundation

| Thursday, Nov. 4, 2004

Geibel Catholic High School has served God and students for 40 years.

The regional school grew out of the parish high school at Immaculate Conception Roman Catholic Church, which was too small to accommodate a growing student population. In 1962, Bishop William G. Connare initiated plans to build a high school that would serve students from Connellsville, Scottdale and Mount Pleasant.

Immaculate Conception's priest of 35 years, the Rev. Henry Geibel, purchased property on which the school would be built and ground was broken on March 6, 1963. Geibel died before the school was completed. The school was named in his honor, the Diocesan Father Geibel Memorial High School.

According to the school's history, "In January of 1964, 300 students and staff members marched from Immaculate Conception High School in Connellsville, up the Crawford Avenue hill, to take possession of the new $1.2 million building. Here, in a brief ceremony of cutting the green and white ribbons, which had been stretched across the entrance doors, the school was officially opened. The Rev. Francis Ott, superintendent of schools, blessed a crucifix, which he placed on the wall at the main entrance. Then in a special prayer, (he) proceeded to beg God's blessing on the school and all who would be part of it."

Physical education and health teacher Kenneth Misiak was there, and still is. He started teaching at Immaculate Conception in 1958.

"We walked up the hill from Immaculate Conception, carrying anything we could get our hands on," Misiak recalls. "We just kept looking forward to coming here, it kept me excited, knowing there would be a regional Catholic high school."

In addition to teaching, Misiak is the boys' basketball coach. He has remained faithful to Geibel "simply because I like it. It's a good place to teach, it's a good place to coach."

Misiak's conviction runs deeper than the work environment. "I'm a strong believer in the Catholic school philosophy. The way I behave and practice, I bring it into the way I teach and coach. Over the years, we've touched many kids. It's been rewarding."

Misiak estimates that "more than half" of Geibel's staff has been in his classes.

One former student and basketball player is principal Vincent Mascia. He graduated from Geibel in 1975. Mascia started teaching at Conn-Area Catholic, then taught biology and chemistry at Geibel for 12 years. He has served as principal for five years.

"The living expression of faith differentiates Geibel from other schools," Mascia says.

Geibel's president, the Rev. Dan Blout, says that students pray daily and religious values are reinforced during the school day. Blout leads Masses on holy days.

Not all the students are Catholic, and non-Catholics are encouraged to share the unique viewpoints of their faith, Blout says.

"Many choose Geibel Catholic as a faith-based education. We're not on a mission to make everyone Catholic, but to share the Gospel," says development director Brian Casey.

Students take religious studies classes each year, and a senior-level class explores world religions. Students also participate in service projects to benefit their school, community and church.

According to Casey, students have assisted in nursing homes, sponsored blood drives, helped with church festivals, volunteered with the Special Olympics and Scout troops.

The gym is open most weekends for Special Olympians, and many students coach in the program.

Geibel provides students with a solid academic foundation, and 95 percent of graduates go on to post-secondary education, he adds.

Geibel is often a tradition in many families.

Patty Porter graduated from Geibel in 1973. She was one of six children, who all attended Geibel.

"Everything that I am, and stand for today is a reflection of the education that I received there," she says.

Porter works as the public relations director at Highlands Hospital. She says that her brothers and sisters have worked to make sure their children have received the same quality education that they did.

Geibel, she says, is a place where alumni and their children "can mold the foundation for their future."

As it ends its 40th year, Geibel is looking forward.

Mascia says that the school's physical plant will be updated, with special emphasis on the athletic facility. Geibel recently built its own football field.

Academics are constantly evolving. Mascia says that new offerings include writing classes and SAT preparation. Technology is playing a larger role than before in education and its expansion is the focus of a current fund drive.

"No matter what changes come, our focus is developing a strong work ethic in our students and encouraging them to use the gifts they have been given," Casey says.

Alumni and their families, current and former teachers and staff and Greensburg Diocese Bishop Lawrence Brandt will celebrate the school's past and future at a dinner on Nov. 26 at the Lakeside Party Center in McClellandtown. For more information, call 724-628-5600.

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