Hometown Heroes: School principal is teacher, mentor and caregiver

St. Joseph the Provider School

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) – This week’s Hometown Hero demonstrates how a mission school in Youngstown can work for kids who need more than just an education.

Cheryl Jablonski is the principal at St. Joseph the Provider school in Youngstown’s Brier Hill section. Like most of our station’s Hometown Heroes, our visit left her lost for words.

“I am flattered. Thank you so much. I don’t know what to say,” Jablonski said.

But the kids know exactly what to say, about a teacher, a mentor and caregiver.

“Cause when I am hurt, she helps me get up. When I am sad, she helps my tears go away. She just a nice and loving person,” 4th-grader Corinthia Carter said.

There is a reason why Jablonski sounds more like a nurse than a teacher.

“Actually, I wanted to be a teacher in high school, but they talked me out of it. They said it was too saturated a field, so I was a practical nurse for 10 years before I went back to school and became a teacher,” Jablonski said.

As a mission school, St. Joseph the Provider is a Catholic school with very few Catholic students. It used to be in Campbell where St. Joseph the Provider Church was located, but it was moved several years ago to the former St. Anthony School and became a mission school.

“We are not affiliated with any parish either, so that means Father Mike’s job is to raise money to keep us going,” Jablonski said.

Raising money to keep the school afloat is a small miracle, but Jablonski’s boss thinks that she is the miracle worker.

“Well the miracle moment was when we moved the school out of Campbell. We had one month to do that. She organized the staff and the faculty. And we moved the whole school here to Brier Hill. And that was a small miracle. Some said it wouldn’t be done, couldn’t be done, but it was done,” St. Joseph the Provider School President Fr. Michael Swierz said.

Physically moving the school was easy compared to some of the hardships these students face every day.

“When I first came to this school, I was bad. After a while, I changed. Cause I know you can’t get through life with a bad attitude, so you gotta change yourself around cause you are not going to get far,” 8th-grader Portia Alli said.

This is more than a job or even a career to Jablonski. It is a true calling.

“She knows these children. She knows their background. She knows what they need. As a mission school, she is fulfilling what Jesus wanted us to do. To serve those that need to be served,” Sister Charlotte Italiano, director of student services, said.

Jablonski helps children with life lessons, and the answers are not always found in the back of the book.

“She helped me out a lot. Cause when my brother died, the school was there for me. She was there for me. She came to the house and talked to the kids, and she was just very nice. Miss Jablonski always helping people when they have a bad day, or they are down,” Portia Alli said.

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