Recognizing Outstanding Catholic School Students: Youth Virtues, Valor and Vision Awards (YVVV Awards)

Written by Karen Barreras, NCEA Director of Leadership Engagement [email protected]

Many Catholic schools have a compelling call to service for students. According to the National Standards and Benchmarks for Effective Catholic Elementary and Secondary Schools, Second Edition (NSBECS), Domain One, Mission and Catholic Identity, Standard 3 says, “An excellent Catholic school adhering to mission provides opportunities both within and outside the classroom for Christ-centered student faith formation, participation in liturgical and communal prayer, and action in service of missionary discipleship and social justice.” And Benchmark 3.3 reinforces the call to service: “Every student participates in authentic Christian service programs to promote the lived reality of action in service of social justice.”

With student opportunities for service in mind, the NCEA Data Brief 2023-2024 indicates that Catholic school enrollment for PK-12 stands at 1,693,327 students. Even if only three total service hours were required per student, that would be a total of 5,079,981 hours of service learning! That makes a difference in lives, outreach and care.

That said, each year NCEA sponsors the Youth, Valor and Vision Awards (YVVV Awards). People in member-schools are encouraged to nominate their students for this award, sponsored by Archangel Education + Technology. Nominations are accepted each fall. Winners are chosen from elementary/middle school and secondary school. This year there were recipients from twelve arch/dioceses throughout the country.

Some of the words and phrases used to describe these Catholic school students include: servant leadership; embracing a life full of compassion; kindness; humility; gentleness; patience and gratitude; striving to live God’s will; being a charitable and reliable friend; coordinating a collection of necessary items (for homeless men); programs and outreach that nurture the dignity and worth of his classmates; and strives to treat each person she meets with respect and dignity and a willingness to serve her neighbor. One student performed over 700 service hours during high school!

To delve even deeper into the stories about the nominees, letters of recommendation were submitted that elaborated on the stewardship of some of the students.  One elementary/middle school student organized a stuffed animal collection, participated in a diaper drive, helped clean and decorate veterans’ graves and helped clean up homes for people impacted by a hurricane. All of this while displaying character with a focus on service, sacrifice and love of Christ. A secondary student has dedicated time and talent to help educate underprivileged youth while maintaining excellence in faith, academics, athletics and more!

Does your school have a story to tell about a student who goes above and beyond the required service hours to affirm the concepts of virtues, valor and vision? Are they living out their faith through works of generosity and stewardship in the immediate school community and beyond? Some students in your schools do good work every day, without recognition or elaborate praise. Please acknowledge them! Furthermore, consider nominating them for a YVVV Award next fall, too.

Please visit the NCEA website for more information about this year’s YVVV recipients: