Bishop McVinney students thrive despite pandemic
Derick Arias, 6, a kindergartener at Bishop McVinney School in Providence, works on an assignment Thursday, May 27, 2021. (WJAR)

The academic year is coming to an end and students at Bishop McVinney School in Providence are thinking about the future, with eighth graders graduating in just a few weeks.

Leeanna, Borkai, 14, has been a student at the Catholic school since she was 3 years old. She said she is going to miss her friends and teachers but is also looking forward to high school, as well as college.

“I want to be a labor and delivery nurse,” she told NBC 10 News during a recent visit to the school. “I just like helping people.”

Borkai, who will be attending St. Patrick’s Academy in Providence in the fall, added that the year has been filled with challenges due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“With the masks and all the limits, it’s been kind of hard and stressful,” Borkai said. “There’s not really a lot of communication. You can’t really go up to a friend and ask for help.”

Leeanna Borkai, 14, an eighth grader, has been a student at the Catholic school since she was 3 years old. (WJAR)

Still, she said it helped remind her how capable she is.

“I learned that I had independence that I didn’t even think I had,” Borkai said.

Her classmates, Reggie Browne, 15, and Deliah Reyes, 13, agreed. They said the pandemic has taught them a lot.

“I realized I’m stronger than I really think I am,” said Browne, adding that his mother had COVID in October and overcame it. “I learned a lesson about how to be prepared for something new. Going forward, if anything similar to the coronavirus happens again, I’ll be ready for it.”

Reyes shared similar sentiments.

“If I can get through this, I can get through something bigger,” she said.

Reggie Browne, (left){{ }}Deliah Reyes (center) and{{ }}Leeanna Borkai, are eighth graders at Bishop McVinney School in Providence. (WJAR)
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For Reyes, the transition has been unique, as she chose to return to in-person school in April, while the rest of her peers had been back since September. She said it was what she thought was best for her.

“I was supposed to come back earlier but it scared me,” she said. “I hadn’t been here in a year.”

But when she returned, her fears subsided. She said being around friends, as well as educators, has been refreshing.

“It wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be,” she said. “I’ve been with my classmates for about two years now, so I’ve gotten to know them, and I know all my teachers.”

Lou Hebert is the principal of the school. He, along with Daniel Ferris, who is the superintendent of Catholic schools in Rhode Island, said they are impressed with how well students coped despite a “strange” and “chaotic” 18 months.

“There was a lot of creativity, ingenuity, and inspiration to do things differently,” Ferris said.

Plus, Hebert said, educators also learned quite a bit, with the school obtaining new equipment.

He said Lexia Learning, an online reading instruction program, has been instrumental in both in-person and remote learning.

“I don’t know where we would be now if it hadn’t been for this,” Hebert said of the program, with donors providing tablets for students.

Kindergarteners were using the program when NBC 10 visited.

Derick Arias, 6, a kindergartener{{&nbsp;}} at Bishop McVinney School in Providence, works on an assignment Thursday, May 27, 2021. (WJAR)
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Derick Arias, 6, showed a reporter an assignment he was working on, while Ava Pettaway, 6, talked about her favorite subject.

“I like math because I like to do the tally graphs,” she said.

{p}“I like math because I like to do the tally graphs,”{{&nbsp;}}Ava Pettaway, 6, tells NBC 10 News Thursday, May 27, 2021. (WJAR){{&nbsp;}}{br}{/p}
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The older students appreciate the program, too.

“Technology has really helped us because that was the only way we could do our school work,” Browne said.

Borkai agreed. She said navigating Zoom during quarantine “was very stressful” but she eventually got the hang of it.

“I had to keep having faith in God that everything was going to be OK,” Borkai said.

Reyes, who will be attending Classical High School in the fall, said FriarServe, a volunteer program with Providence College, has kept them connected not only to one another, but to college students and professors.

Through FriarServe, Reyes and Borkai are involved in Civic Engagement, a club led by a professor at PC. They are learning how shelters assist women and children who have been impacted by domestic violence.

“Right now, we’re working on fundraising,” Reyes said.

Their involvement with the club will continue throughout the summer, with Hebert noting that the program has been popular at his school. He said students been more interested this year in comparison to the past.

“Maybe that had something to do with COVID and all the regulations, but we’ve had more tutors, clubs, and guest readers than we’ve ever had,” he said, also adding that the eighth graders will be treated to a field trip at Mother of Hope, a diocesan youth camp in Chepachet, ahead of graduation.

“It’s a beautiful location,” he said.

Until then, they will wrap up the school year and prepare for the big day, which is June 15.

“I think it’s going to be really cool,” said Browne, who will be going to St. Raphael Academy in Pawtucket. “My mom said she’ll have a little party.”

Borkai and Reyes planned family get-togethers to celebrate.

They said they are eager for the summer, but also don’t want to rush it because they love Bishop McVinney School.

“I’m going to miss how welcoming this community is,” Borkai said. “I’ve been with my peers for a long time, so it’s another chapter.”

Browne (left) and Reyes (right) read in a group with one of their classmates Thursday, May 27, 2021. (WJAR){p}{/p}

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