What is So Special About Indiantown, Florida?
Catholic Education at the Rim of the Everglades
Hope Rural School, 1980 - 2022. To this author, this small Catholic school, PK3 - 5 lives up to its name in giving hope to 140 children and to a nation of 330 million. How’s that? You have to meet the kids. Hope Rural School provides a Catholic education that nurtures the Gospel values of mercy, justice and love. And that is just what you see when you arrive. A student population of such gentility, respect and love just gushes out toward visitors. It is the molding of Catholic character engendered to each from its curriculum and staff.
Originally settled by Seminole Indian tribes, Indiantown was subsequently replaced by white Irish migrants due to its hunting, fishing and farm land in the 1890s. With the emergence of corporate agriculture in the U. S, and the Americas, Indiantown has become a community of immigrant farmworkers from Haiti, Mexico and Guatemala who have called this area home for decades.
When visiting Hope Rural School, you are greeted by Director Sr. Elizabeth Dunn, O.P and Principal Sr. Martha Rohde, O.P. These wonderful Catholic women take you an a tour of campus while sprinkling tidbits of information on its culture and history. Information such as Indiantown being a home to thoroughbred horse racing facilities, one of its stable owners was Davy Jones of the Monkees. Upon school opening in 1980, there were many needs of course: facilities, construction, supplies, tuition. One of the stand out needs was transportation for its students. Fortunately, a school bus was paid and donated by Hollywood actor and philanthropist Paul Newman.
Holy Cross Catholic Church, Indiantown’s only Catholic church is adjacent to the school campus and serves the community of just below 7,000. Demographics indicate a city of approximately 16% white, 12% black and 70% hispanic. The school population is predominantly children of migrant farm workers with one student identifying himself as white and American. Speaking with the children is a joy. They speak of their tribulations through both the desert areas and rainy areas of Mexico to get here. They speak of the animals at night and fear they engender upon the migrants. They speak of the bandits at night and the fear further engendered. They speak of the illnesses endured throughout their ordeal. They speak of the hope they all had to get to America and for their families to make a better life for themselves. They speak clearly about it because the major portion of the curriculum is the training of English writing, reading and speaking skills along with American history and culture. They are America’s future. Success abounds over the past 40 years with graduates becoming, nurses, teacher, lawyers. Contributions for supplies, tuition and building costs originate from many sectors of South Florida, but especially from other Catholic organizations. Such organizations include churches of the Palm Beach, FL diocese and the Knights of Columbus.
Finally, if you ever visit Indiantown and Hope Rural School, there is a nice hotel , ‘The Seminole Inn’ and one great restaurant, ‘Guatemex’, truly authentic Guatamalan food. Buen provecho and God Bless!