Pondering his four years as president of Central Catholic High School, Colin McGinty told former school president Msgr. Tim Murphy the journey has changed his life.

“You can’t work at a place and be a part of a community like Central Catholic’s without it impressing itself upon you,” McGinty told Msgr. Murphy in a sit-down interview. “I am a different person because of the four years I’ve had here. You learn a lot about yourself and you get a better perspective on things. It’s made me more appreciative of the life I’ve had. It has given me a tremendous amount of hope and joy in being part of a community that cares for one another.”

Over the years, McGinty has learned to be humble and be thankful.

“This type of job — in a place like this — has a way of teaching you humility, whether you want it to or not. It also teaches you gratitude. You can’t do a job like this without an army of amazing people: teachers, administrators, parents, alumni, donors.”

When the pandemic struck last spring, Central Catholic, as most schools in the world, was not prepared to operate during a pandemic.

“I will forever be in awe of our school community for the way we responded to this unprecedented challenge. Our teachers were absolute heroes in how they stepped up and figured out how to keep our students engaged. They put their own concerns aside for the benefit of the students and kept them at the forefront,” said McGinty.“The rest of our school continued to be focused on dialogue and engagement of our other constituents.”

Leaders of the school pondered questions: How do we  keep parents engaged? How do we keep alumni engaged?

“We took the idea that the doors were locked but the school was open, and we did it,” said McGinty.

The Southeast Portland school successfully held an auction, had a new Oktoberfest Marketplace, raised money for struggling non-profits and held sack lunch drives.

 “That just says so much about the community of Central Catholic,” McGinty said.

The school saw enrollment increase during the pandemic. McGinty credits the school’s focus on mission — to serve the students within the context of the broader community.

“That’s what you have to do,” he said.

When he first came to be president at Central Catholic, McGinty heard that the school had strong academics and a tight-knit community of alumni, parents and friends. Now having worked in the community, he said those assumptions have proved true.

“What I’ve witnessed in these first four years has not only reinforced my expectations, they’ve illuminated them,” said McGinty.

“We serve a very diverse student body that reflects the community of Portland, Oregon. Regardless of who you are and where you come from, we seek to strengthen you, develop you, and partner with you. You have to experience us to get us. If someone asked me, ‘What is the secret sauce of Central Catholic?,’ I would ask them to come here and see it. There’s not a tagline or marketing pitch that would truly encapsulate how uniquely special Central Catholic is. You have to feel it and see it.”

McGinty feels grateful for relationships he’s made while at Central Catholic —with parents, alumni, past parents, teachers and staff.

“It’s those relationships where we’re all starting to row in the same direction that are deeply fulfilling,” he said.

He’s proud of the school and those connections.

“You see the genuine relationship the school has within itself. You see the impact our teachers have on the lives of our students. You see the incredible strength of our alumni and parent community. And they see the value of what young people are getting while they’re here and that motivates them to continue to invest in the school and ensure that that continues.

“That’s not because of me. That’s because of the school — and I’m incredibly proud to be a part of that. It’s humbling,” he added.

“I personally know the people contributing the money and those who are benefitting from it,” said McGinty. “Those financial contributions are profound in their impact to these amazing young men and women whose lives are being forever bettered by being a student here.”

McGinty told Msgr. Murphy he wasn’t prepared for how much of a partnership he’d enter with people.

“You become aware of and involved with some of the most challenging parts of people’s lives. You meet with families who’ve lost jobs and lost homes. You work with families who’ve lost children. You have faculty and staff going through challenging times. You have people with conflicting points of view on things where you have to mediate.

“That’s both the difficult part of the job but it’s also one of the privileges of the job. While you’re accompanying someone on their journey, you can see it as really hard but also as an opportunity to help them through something.

“In a job like this, it becomes very real.”

When Msgr. Murphy asked what advice McGinty would have given himself when he started at Central, the president said he’d tell himself to keep learning.

“Learn to listen, learn to be flexible, learn to continue to trust, learn how to have grace. We tell our students, ‘You’re not a finished product’ and I’ve learned through humility to keep learning.”