- Special Sections
- Public Notices
Abby Moore was certain about her feelings about Bethlehem High School.
“I never wanted to come here at all,” Moore said.
None of her friends were going to Bethlehem, Bardstown’s Catholic high school. But her parents wanted her to attend to continue her Catholic education and prepare for college.
To help with the decision-making process, Moore shadowed a student going to the school. That was all she needed.
“By the end of the day, I knew I wanted to come here because I liked it,” she said.
Moore wasn’t alone in her reticence. Still, she is one of 16 students from Hardin County who, along with their parents, made the decision to enroll there.
The school, about 27 miles east via the Blue Grass Parkway, takes a commitment from the Hardin County families — a financial commitment in the form of tuition and a time commitment to travel to and from the school every day.
While the majority of students who attend are from Nelson County, there are nine other counties represented in the student population, including 38 from Bullitt County and 23 from Washington County.
Bethlehem is the only Catholic high school in the Archdiocese of Louisville outside of Louisville, said Julie Downs, director of admissions and special events. Students in those counties seeking that kind of school environment don’t have other options besides Louisville high schools.
Downs said the administration is cognizant they are pulling students from a wide area, and they know many freshmen begin their time there alone among strangers. They are aware of how all freshmen are acclimating.
“We try to be sensitive to that,” Downs said.
Making the leap
Unlike Moore, senior Miranda Swan was interested in attending Bethlehem. But while Moore fell in love after spending a few hours on campus, Swan spent a year questioning her decision. She was so determined to leave, she gathered her transcripts by the end of her freshman year.
“I was ready to be transferred,” Swan said.
But before she did, on a whim, she decided to audition for the school’s drama club. Now Swan is working on her seventh musical.
There is a place for everyone at Bethlehem, Swan said, though it might take a little longer for some to find it. Looking back on her plans to transfer, she’s grateful she didn’t. She doubts she would have grown as she has anywhere else.
“I probably would have stayed an awkward, weird freshman for the rest of my life,” she said.
Leaving behind almost everyone they know wasn’t easy for many of the Hardin County students who attend Bethlehem.
For freshman Morgan Yates, most of her friends from St. James Regional Catholic School attended Central Hardin High School. She admits she was worried about going to school without them.
“I remember that first soccer practice in the summer (before the school year began). I didn’t know anyone and I didn’t want to go,” she said.
But the size of the school, which has slightly more than 300 students, has made it easy to make friends.
“You literally can call everyone by their first name,” she said.
Other students were happy about the chance to attend. Sophomore Derek Diaz has attended a variety of schools because of his parents’ military careers. He knew he preferred a small school, particularly one that was faith-based.
“I knew what I wanted as soon as I saw it,” he said.
Senior Megan Malone attended both St. James and East Hardin Middle School and enjoyed both, but Central Hardin didn’t suit her. After shadowing a student at Bethlehem, she knew “100 percent” she wanted to attend the school.
Parents often favor the size of Bethlehem, and a Catholic education often is important. Becky Yates, mother of Morgan and sophomore Jake, said Catholic schooling goes back four generations in her husband’s family.
“It’s kind of a family tradition,” she said.
Michelle Berger has a son, Trevor Jr., at Bethlehem, and a daughter, Meghan, who graduated. They both attended St. James, and Berger wanted them attend a Catholic high school.
“That’s one of the biggest reasons, we wanted to keep the Catholic education going,” Berger said.
Meghan was eager to attend Bethlehem because she wanted to continue attending a small school.
“That’s all she’d ever known, and loved it,” Berger said.
Making it work
Despite Berger’s wishes for her children, it was a big decision for the family. She and her husband were accustomed to paying for private school, but Bethlehem’s tuition of $6,350 for a single student for this school year was higher, and there was an issue of scheduling Meghan and Trevor Jr.’s extracurricular activities in Bardstown.
“It’s not always easy, but it’s worth it,” she said.
Becky Yates said her family had to take in the same considerations.
“You think about the money and you think about the time,” she said.
The family had good work schedules to make it happen. A bus picks up students in Hardin County, and her children take it to school. They’ve found several ways to stay involved in extracurricular activities. Bardstown families often open up their homes while the students wait for practices to begin.
“It sounds worse than it is,” Yates said of the distance between her home and the school.
For the Bergers, Trevor Jr. also stayed with families in Bardstown to enable him to stay after school for sports practice. The family would carpool with others as well.
“Other families welcome the kids,” she said.
Yates said she has discussed with her children the financial aspects of attending Bethlehem. They know there are no brand new cars in their future, she said.
“You do what you’ve got to do,” she said.
The Bergers cut back on dining out and vacations.
“I think you always want better for your kids,” she said.
Swan said any difficulties she encountered in the beginning were worth what she’s received from Bethlehem. After being used to knowing everyone, the school forced her out of her comfort zone.
“It gives you this whole skill that I would not have gotten anywhere else,” she said.
Meghan Berger wanted a small school for her high school experience. But when it came time to move on to college, she chose the University of Kentucky, Michelle Berger said.
“She was ready for something bigger,” she said.
And as a sophomore in college, she’s beginning to truly appreciate what her parents made possible for her.
“She thanks us all the time, actually,” she said.
Kelly Cantrall can be reached at (270) 505-1747 or firstname.lastname@example.org.