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2023 Gala Calls Community Together

By Ms. Natalie McIntyre

dinner tables on a lawn
Our guests enjoy an elegant evening under the JP lights

This year the John Paul full-time team numbers thirteen strong. We are a happy mix of American volunteers and employed Belizeans, and we all wear many hats in addition to our festive Gala sombreros. These teachers, administrators, recruiters, coaches, journalists, advisors, residential directors, repairmen, and more all had to play a vital role in the planning and execution of our 150-guest, formal fundraising dinner. Needing to maximize profit for the sake of student scholarships, we had the added challenge of completing this task with as small a budget as possible. And yet, to wear that festive sombrero was a true gift.

choir singing together
The JP choir, made of students and staff, gave a performance

Months ago I would have called this event my Everest; it appeared to be nearly impossible to climb and we had to do so at a seemingly disproportionate ratio of effort to attainable success. However, as time continued, the Gala likened itself more to Dante’s Mt. Purgatory, an opportunity for incredible growth and ascent to a higher good.

Every year we resist the temptation to opt for the typical, and often suggested, Belizean fundraiser. This consists in delicious, yet casual, home-cooked meals brought to you in styrofoam, to-go containers. My biggest woe with the styrofoam containers is not the negative effect they have on the environment, but rather the way they lend themselves to the consistent, comfortable, and subtly isolating eating habits growing around us.

3 people with a painting
Chancellor Fr. Beau & Dean Natalie Gallatin present Anselma Rosado, principle of MCHS, with a mosaic as a token of the connection between the two schools

At John Paul, we swap the styrofoam for sleek white dishware placed eight to a table. We delight our guests with four courses paired with a glass of wine. We form a John Paul band to fill the night with beautiful music and follow the band with traditional marimba music to provide a classy atmosphere for dancing. We turn our need for fundraising into an opportunity to build community and a culture of celebration and festivity.

Throwing an extravagant party is a tremendous task for our team, but symptoms of the secularization of culture, signs of a world-wide bushel basket, are ever encroaching upon our light. To let that light shine and spread, we ascended the mountain, hosted a party, raised money for student scholarships, gave glory to God, and are better because of it.

But what is a school if only the teachers have the opportunity for experiential learning and growth?

servers giving a guests at dinner
JP students serve Gala guests

In order to teach our students that good and beautiful things are worth the hard work, and that they can grow in their capacity for goodness and beauty in the process, the students are asked to serve the night of the Gala.

servers holding plates of appetizers
JP students listen to instructions before serving hors d'oeuvres

Not unexpectedly, there are some who cannot see past their own discomfort. However, these are few. I was struck that night by seeing so many smiling faces doting on our guests. They looked sharp and gave their all for hours. Second-year student, Maybelin Gamez, even told me as the night was winding down, “I might fail a class just so I can serve the Gala again.”

It is only right that a community should gather for a common goal, enjoy good food and music, and dance the night away. Ironically, we have to fight against mediocrity and work diligently to do the very thing we were made for. However, those very efforts better prepare us to receive and participate in the great event. The Lord knows what He is about!

In addition to helping our current students realize their capacity for greatness, the Gala will help future students do the same. We were able to raise over $10,000 for student scholarships, and it would not have been possible without the help of so many donors. I would like to explicitly thank La Familia Farms, Sleeping Giant, Chaa Creek, Midas Resort, Hol Chan Marine Reserve, Recino’s Imports, Vega’s Distributors, all of the members of the John Paul Band, and the faculty, staff, and students of John Paul for making this night possible.

Deo Gratias!


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