Susan Lally is Parish Accountant at St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Parish and a member of the CEF Board of Directors.
Breaking the cycle of poverty while saving souls: this is the goal of the Catholic Education Foundation (CEF). What an awe-inspiring mission for an organization. If someone told me that I could support an organization that would accomplish this goal for even one child, I wouldn’t know how to say yes fast enough. Fortunately for me, I was in fact given the opportunity, and I very quickly learned just how many lives this amazing organization routinely impacts and how far-reaching and profound are its effects.
CEF is founded on the belief that any child desiring a high-quality, faith-based education deserves to realize that dream regardless of their financial limitations. Annually, CEF awards scholarships to 1,300+ students from families with an average annual income of $24,000, allowing them to attend local Catholic schools. These children receive educations that will permanently change their lives but also develop and grow their faith on a daily basis. Upon joining the CEF Board of Directors I realized that my original desire to help change the life of even one child suddenly became the lives of 1,300 children in one year alone….and believe it or not, that’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.
To say the impact of a CEF scholarship is limited to the benefiting student would be a masterful understatement. With a requirement that the family also contributes in part to the tuition, CEF encourages the vital partnership between parents and school that ensures the parents’ healthy and proud participation in their child’s education. The principals, teachers and staff lucky enough to serve these special families are employed in one of 22 local schools benefiting from the security the scholarships help to generate.
The ripple effect of the benefits of CEF extends into the general community. Annually hundreds of volunteers and supporters unite in a consolidated effort to ensure CEF scholarships reach as many kids as possible. These efforts always involve those children, whether they are proudly giving tours of their schools to Board Members, writing thank you notes to donors, or creating art work and gifts for those attending fundraisers. Their participation helps to motivate and excite the supporters but also exposes the children at an early age to the importance of giving back to their community. Also exciting to watch is the group of young professionals called the CEF Futures who are committed to promoting the CEF mission. These young adults are also learning the importance of supporting their community, specifically by growing the Guardian Angel Fund which provides financial help to CEF families facing short-term crises that prevent them from meeting their tuition obligations.
Is CEF successful? No question: with 98% of CEF students graduating from high school, and 98% of those graduates attending college (compared to 30% of their peers), not only is the cycle of poverty broken, there is also no limit to the potential these kids will bring to the world in their future. Hopefully they too will one day support CEF, and I’m sure they’d do it even if it were for the benefit of only one child.