STVM House System

History | Program Overview | Benefits | Correlation to STVM's Mission | House Structure | Q & A's

St. Vincent-St. Mary High School's House System embodies our Irish heritage, school history, diversity, and mission, all of which are rooted in the Marianist Tradition. To demonstrate these qualities, each of our four Houses possess symbols and names that represent the many facets of our school's history, traditions, and connections to our community. 

Each House is named after a tree that is native to both Ireland and Northeast Ohio: Ash, Hawthorn, Holly and Oak. According to Irish history, each of these trees possess unique qualities and attributes important to early Irish, Celtic and Druid cultures. Like a tree, as we continue to nurture countless students' faith and minds, our St. Vincent-St. Mary community grows each year. Moreover, since Akron is one of only 3,400 designated Tree cities in the country, our House names emphasize the connection we have to our community. Consequently, the leaf of each tree is found on each House's crest.

In order to underscore the importance of the Marianist Tradition at St. Vincent-St. Mary, each crest has an item from the Marianist table setting tradition. For Marianists, setting the table is a unique and important symbol: "Around a table people gather to be nurtured, to celebrate each other as family and friends, to share in spirited conversations, to feel the special bond of unity as brothers and sisters in the Family of God." Thus, a symbol from the Marianist table was added to each Houses' crest to emphasize how everyone in the St. Vincent-St. Mary community is invited to join us in our faith community.

Lastly, each crest has an Ogham Rune symbol. The Ogham Runes are letters of an alphabet used in the early Irish language nearly 2,000 years ago. The Ogham Rune script found on each crest is a symbol for that House's tree.

Attention Alumni! You have been officially placed into one of our four houses.

House Ash:

The ash tree was thought to have power over water. Consequently, Irish emigrants to America took pieces of the ash with them as a charm against drowning. Celtic mythology refers to the ash tree as "The World Tree," a tree that spans between worlds. The ash tree represents longevity, endurance and productivity. Along with an image of water on the bottom of the crest, the shape of the house crest resembles waves of water. Consequently, blue is House Ash's primary color. In addition, stars, which sailors used to navigate the seas, are found on House Ash's crest. The water pitcher, an element from the Marianist table, symbolizes the "living water" Christ gives us to help us toward our salvation.

House Hawthorn:

The hawthorn is a tree with magical enchantment and is strongly associated with Beltane, an ancient Gaelic festival celebrating spring. In Celtic mythology, it is one of the most sacred trees and symbolizes love and protection. House Hawthorn's crest is in the form of a shield to embody how the hawthorn tree was thought to protect individuals from harm. Moreover, the heart within the crest, as well as House Hawthorn's red coloring, associate the House with love. The flowers, from the Marianist table, are a visible sign of God's creative genius and love, creating a welcoming and open atmosphere at the Marianist table.

House Holly:

Traditionally the holly tree is a highly sacred in Celtic mythology and symbolizes peace and goodwill. Due to its resistance to lightning, it is associated with the Celtic and Norse gods of thunder, Taranis and Thor, and so was planted near dwellings to protect people from lightning strikes. Holly also symbolizes fertility and Eternal Life. The shape of House Holly's crest is modeled on the shape of the tree's leaf, giving the crest its unique shape. To emphasize the tree's association with thunder and lightning, House Holly's primary color is yellow and the crest possesses Thor's hammer. Lastly, the Marianist candle represents the warmth, light and special ambience that can be brought into any situation. This important Marianist symbol can help to bring comfort to our lives in times of sadness or tragedy.

House Oak:

The word Druid actually comes from the Celtic word for oak, "Duir". The Druids also believed that the oak tree is the host to the strength and energy of their gods and so to catch a failing oak leaf brings good luck and prosperity. Not only is the oak tree associated with nobility, but also in mythology, the Irish oak symbolizes truth, courage and wisdom. The crest's shape mimics that of an acorn. Coupled with the crown, House Oak's primary color is purple to symbolize nobility and strength that is closely linked to the oak tree. From the Marianist table, the bell is used to signal the beginning of a meal, reminding us all that we are invited to come to the feast, the Supper of the Lamb.

Students and staff members overwhelming believe that the symbol of the tree best represents the history of St. Vincent-St. Mary, its mission, its long-standing traditions and its place in the history of Akron. Here is some more detail behind the decision:

stvm history and tradition

  • “Caring for God’s Creation” is included in our school improvement plan.
    • This includes planting trees around campus, maintaining our victory garden, and beautifying our campus through intentional programs and planning.     
  • With almost 20,000 alumni from St. Vincent, St. Mary, and St. Vincent-St. Mary, our family tree is continuously growing and is deeply rooted in tradition.
  • Shillelagh's are generally made of Oak or Hawthorn trees

a long-standing akron institution

  • Akron is one of 3,400 designated Tree Cities in the US.
  • Akron has deep roots in our community.
  • St. Vincent-St. Mary High School is the *oldest operating high school in Akron.
    • *This includes St. Mary and St. Vincent as individual schools
  • All four trees can be grown in Northeast Ohio.
  • Types of the Ash, Oak, Holly, and Hawthorn trees are native to Ohio.

  • Ash (Nion)
    • Irish emigrants to America took pieces of the ash with them as a charm against drowning. Ash was thought to have power over water. Celtic mythology refers to the ash tree as "The World Tree," a tree that spans between worlds. The Ash tree represents longevity, endurance, and productivity.
  • Hawthorn (Hauth)
    • The Hawthorn is a tree of magical enchantment and is strongly associated with Beltane, the ancient festival celebrating spring. In Celtic mythology it is one of the most sacred trees and symbolizes love and protection.
  • Holly (Tinne)
    • Traditionally, the Holly tree is highly sacred in Celtic mythology and symbolizes peace and goodwill. Due to its resistance to lightning, it is associated with the Celtic and Norse gods of thunder, Taranis and Thor, and so was planted near dwellings to protect people from lightning strikes. Holly also symbolizes fertility and eternal life.
  • Oak (Duir)
    • The word "druid" actually comes from the Celtic word for Oak, which is "Duir." The Druids also believed that the Oak tree is host to the strength and energy of their gods and so to catch a falling Oak leaf brings good luck and prosperity. In mythology, the Irish Oak symbolizes truth, courage and wisdom.


Originally developed in British boarding schools as far back as the 1800s, the “House System” was established as a means to support and encourage students in their academic and social lives while apart from their families. The students actually lived in houses with the faculty and students with whom they were grouped, hence the name.

Program Overview

St. Vincent-St. Mary High School students and faculty in grades 9-12 will be assigned into four distinct Houses. Each House will have its own unique characteristics: namesake, crest, colors, Scripture, and symbols. Each House will be led by one faculty member (House Dean), several teachers (Mentor Group Leader) and several student leaders.

The Houses will compete for points in a wide variety of categories throughout the school year, including academics, sports, community service, and attendance The Houses will participate in service projects and help lead school events such as pep rallies and other assemblies. The end result will be one house earning the prestigious House Cup, awarded at the end of each school year.


The House System is student-centered with the primary purpose creating an atmosphere of individual growth and development as well as a sense of community and belonging. See the full list of benefits below.

  • Builds community within the school

  • Engages students in campus life

  • Develops student leaders

  • Strengthens relationships across grades and interests

  • Creates discipleship opportunities

  • Provides consistent and varied social experiences

  • Establishes and maintains traditions

  • Provides service opportunities

  • Assimilates new students rapidly

  • Encourages positive behavior

  • Enhances school spirit

  • Provides positive competition

  • Cultivates camaraderie

  • Increases sense of identity and belonging

  • Attracts prospective students and families

Correlation to STVM’s Mission

In the spirit of the Gospel, we are committed to educate the whole person; to lead and to serve, enlightening the mind, developing the body, touching the heart, and inspiring the soul.

  • The House System is a social system providing many, varied social experiences.
  • Houses are divided with a wide mix of ages, genders, interests, abilities, and personalities.
  • Students and faculty interact in a social environment, rather than strictly on an academic level.
  • Student leaders are developed through mentoring relationships with faculty and older students.
  • Students hold defined leadership responsibilities with the House and are held accountable.
  • Each House has multiple student leader positions, which vastly increases  student leadership opportunities.
  • Student leaders are held to high standards of Christ-like character and behavior and serve as examples for other students.
  • Houses can win points for excellent character of their members, which fosters positive peer pressure to make good choices and work hard.
  • Interpersonal skills, teamwork, perseverance, acceptance, edification, competition, sportsmanship, leadership, service, integrity, trustworthiness, citizenship are enhanced.
  • Preparing our students for life through academic challenges, self-responsibility, resourceful technology, and competitive skills that foster resilience.
  • The House System engages the entire family through traditions and generational involvement.
  • Adult mentors form bonding relationships with each student within each house, providing both academic and pastoral care.
  • Students are engaged in the school, which enhances their receptiveness to the teaching and training in Christ-like character provided by the teachers and administration.

House Structure

In each House:

  •     House Dean and Assistant Dean
  •     House Captain (Senior)
  •     House Chaplain (Sophomore, Junior, or Senior)
  •     Spiritual Ambassador (Sophomore, Junior, or Senior)
  •     School Spirit Ambassador (Sophomore, Junior, or Senior)
  •     Service Ambassador (Sophomore, Junior, or Senior)
  •     Social Ambassador (Sophomore, Junior, or Senior)

Questions and Answers

All high school students enrolled at St. Vincent-St. Mary High School will be assigned to a House. The students’ names will be grouped according to grade, gender, and extra-curricular participation, then assignments will be made randomly and evenly across all four Houses. Assignments will be made randomly with no preference given for any situation.

The House names will be decided by the Steering Committee, which will be comprised of volunteers from the student body and faculty members. The House names, crests, and other symbols will be revealed at the House Induction Ceremony on May 15.


Yes. The House System is familial, meaning all the members of an immediate family will be in the same House. Younger siblings will know which House they will be assigned to once their siblings are assigned. The system is generational as well, so your children’s children will be in the same House if they attend STVM.

No. All students enrolled at STVM will be assigned to a House. It is the school’s desire for all students to participate in and find community within the System, however, participation beyond being a member of a certain House is not required.

A student may nominate himself/herself or be nominated by a peer or teacher for a leadership position by completing the House System Nomination form. A student who is nominated for a leadership position must complete a House System Leadership Application. 

The assignment will be random to begin. However, a sense of balance will be maintained.

The purpose of a mentor teacher is to help guide your student along the path of their high school career. Their job is not to be a friend, but to hold them accountable and give them an opportunity to grow. If there are serious issues regarding the relationship between your student and their mentor teacher, the administration will evaluate the situation and help come to the best solution possible for your family and for the teacher.

The purpose of the mentor group is to ensure opportunity to lead and grow in knowledge, ability, and faith. If your student is not being given those opportunities, the administration, house director, mentor group leaders, and student leaders are not doing their jobs correctly, and need to re-evaluate the situation. One of the purposes of the mentor teacher is to realize these issues early in a student’s career and present him or her with opportunities to thrive; whether that is through providing information on clubs and groups, connecting with counselors, or introducing students to other students. This system is designed to provide several layers for students to work within in order to achieve their maximum potential at STVM.

The goal of the House System is to ensure a family atmosphere at STVM. The students will still have classes, sports, and other activities to be with their friends. Having a small population encourages students to meet and interact with more classmates. The House System will provide students with several pathways to meet and make new friends.

The House System is going to enhance a student’s experience by streamlining leadership opportunities, faith building, mentorship and communication within the school. We believe that if students have people to assist with the difficulties of high school and help to hold students accountable, a more positive experience will be possible. In the system, each student will have at least four personal meetings per year with their Mentor Teacher to ensure academic success. This should give mentor teachers a gauge on each student. This will hold each student accountable for the progress at STVM. This will help students avoid falling through the cracks.