Six days into the school year, St. Helena’s Catholic School principal Stephen Bridgforth’s focus is on the students.
A Lovington native and lifelong Catholic, Bridgforth took over the reins at St. Helena following the departure of principal Silbia Molina earlier this summer. He educated for 28 years with Lovington schools before accepting the principal position, starting work Aug. 7. His experience includes teaching elementary, junior high and high school students, in addition to coaching boys and girls’ basketball.
“My focus is the students. We’re here for the students,” he said Wednesday. “We have a double mission here. We need to educate them academically, but we also need to give them a solid foundation in Catholicism.”
Bridgforth explained that wanting to coach led to him discovering a love for teaching.
“I always had been involved with sports and I loved the different sports,” he said. “And I always wanted to coach and to be a coach you get into the teaching. Then, once I got into teaching, I really fell in love with that part of it also.”
He singled out St. Helena’s “great atmosphere,” noting the school’s a smaller group with 63 students and also praised staff members as “absolutely great.”
“The very first meeting I had with them, I congratulated them for being here,” Bridgforth said. “Because I told them they had to be here for the right reason because I know it wasn’t for the money. That tells me their heart’s in the right place and that says a lot about these ladies.”
On Wednesday, he stopped in for a visit with Ann Anderson’s second-grade students, who momentarily stopped painting for the occasion. Bridgforth’s visibility within the school is an aspect that board member William Roan pointed to.
“I go to the school to volunteer to help and the first six days, he has been very visible,” Roan said. “You can see him everywhere. He told me, he said: ‘I’m not going to sit in that office. I’m going to get out here among the kids and the teachers.’ And I really like that part of it.”
Roan described Bridgforth as the perfect hire for the job, citing he’s a devout Catholic who knows what Catholic school is “all about” and had been a public educator for years.
He said Bridgforth gave an impressive interview and the bishop in Las Cruces also approved of him.
“The report we got from the bishop was he was absolutely pleased with Stephen,” Roan added. “He liked everything he saw about him.”