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With a little help from his friends (and family), St. Tom's student thrives

Ethan Pierce

St. Thomas More School eighth-grader Ethan Pierce, 13, pictured on Sept. 28 at the Munster school, transferred to St. Tom's in sixth grade and said he was immediately made to feel welcomed. He was recommended by STM teachers and administrators for his leadership and friendliness in academics and sports. (Anthony D. Alonzo photo)

 

by Anthony D. Alonzo

Northwest Indiana Catholic

 

      In just a couple years, Ethan Pierce has adjusted to a new school, improved his grades, become a leader on the playing field and weathered the storms of family health crises.

      Helpful to the 13-year-old’s journey was the reception he received at St. Thomas More School in Munster, where he said he immediately “felt welcome,” upon moving to the town from Lansing, Ill.

      “Being the new kid, it was kind of nerve-wracking moving from fifth grade to sixth grade because it’s a time period when you want to be right in the middle of everything and everybody knows you,” Pierce said.

      He continued: “As soon as I got here, people were welcoming me and wanting to be my friend and stuff. It felt real nice. . .It was a lot different than my old public school; everyone’s more close-knit, friendly and more like a family.”

      A daunting task for any youth, Pierce said he approached a new school setting by simply being himself. Though most of the St. Tom’s students had already spent six or so years attending classes together and building friendships, he said it was not long before he was interacting with his classmates like they were best buddies.

      Presently, Pierce is maintaining “mostly As,” but excellence in academics has not come easy to him. So he has made sure to attend after-class help sessions with teachers and peers. Now his goal of earning all As is in reach.

      Pierce has developed a personal rewards system as an incentive to get through homework: “I have to power through it. I tell myself when I get done I can sit down and play video games and enjoy myself.”

      Dedicating his hard work in the classroom to his family, those efforts can be stressful, Pierce said. Yet the teen believes the camaraderie and comedy of his friends helps keep things light around the school.

      Teens, he said, get a sense of connectedness with peers by using their ever-present smartphones, tablets, laptops and other computers, “but with your best friend, you actually hang out after school and on the weekends.”

      Pierce said he has been inspired by an academic setting where faith is on display - from crucifixes in church and the classroom, to the way the “family at school” treats one another.

      Such support was particularly important when Pierce grappled with a medical scare affecting his family. He explained, tearing up, that one day his grandmother, Kathleen York, was unresponsive, and later diagnosed with a nervous disorder.

      “It was just scary,” Pierce said. “She was always there for us and it was different having to be there for her.”

      After days of keeping watch over her, Pierce said he and his family were relieved to learn she would improve through therapy. His grandmother recently attended one of his baseball games.

      “I want to keep playing and do better for her,” said Pierce.

      When he was a young boy, Pierce’s father, Jason Pierce, endured a bout with cancer.

      “I thought I was going to lose my dad, because cancer sounds really scary,” Ethan explained. “He’s still fighting through it.

      “We use humor to fight through it. My dad’s a pretty funny guy,” Pierce said, also praising the support of his mom, Nora, and his friends.

      Not a big church-goer before attending St. Thomas More, Ethan said he made his first Holy Comm last year and now believes “Christ has a major role in my life.”

      “I told my religion teacher I wanted to make my First Comm and other sacraments, and I did that during a regular Sunday Mass,” he explained.

      From his busy days in the classroom, to participating in town baseball and Catholic Youth Organization basketball and track, Pierce said his time at St. Thomas More “has gone by really quickly.”

      “I want to finish my St. Tom’s career pretty strong,” Pierce said. “I want to get my straight As, do well on the ISTEPs and NWEAs (standardized tests) and just be a better person this year.”

 

Ethan Pierce 2

St. Thomas More School eighth-grader Ethan Pierce, 13, is pictured in the Munster church on Sept. 28. The third-year transfer student was honored recently as an athletic-scholar. (Anthony D. Alonzo photo)

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