As we sat in a quiet classroom in her school, 13-year-old Maddie twisted the bright band on her wrist.
“A couple of years ago my dad had cancer,” she said softly, recounting the day her dad had given her the bracelet.
“It symbolizes his love for me,” she said. “I never take it off.”
Maddie went on to describe the difficult times her family had experienced; the long stretch of frequent hospitalizations for her dad, the uncertainty about his health and what would happen next. As the medical bills mounted, Maddie’s parents grew concerned that they wouldn’t be able to continue tuition payments for their two daughters attending Archdiocesan schools. Then the school principal called, telling them that she had arranged for Catholic Education Foundation scholarships for Maddie and her sister.
“I really enjoy my Catholic education and it really makes a huge impact on my life,” Maddie told us. “Having Jesus there and knowing that he really loves me, (it) really helps a lot.”
Last year, 1,524 students like Maddie received scholarships through CEF – a record number in CEF’s 20 year existence. This includes students in 24 Archdiocesan schools who received assistance through either CEF’s traditional scholarship program or the tax credit scholarship program that launched in Kansas in 2014. Thanks to the generosity of nearly 1,000 individuals, companies and organizations, these students received more than $2.1 million in scholarship assistance last year.
The impact of these scholarships is dramatic for both the families who receive them and the schools where they enroll. More than 98% of students attending CEF schools graduate from high school, as compared to 70% of their peers attending the nearest neighborhood school. And CEF graduates are three times as likely to attend college as compared to those peers (98% of CEF students compared to 33% of their peers at the neighborhood school).
CEF support also helps keep many of our Archdiocesan schools open; without the enrollment of students receiving CEF scholarships, several Archdiocesan schools would not have the resources they need to continue to serve their communities. As Catholic schools across the country are closing (more than 1,500 in the past 10 years, according to the National Catholic Educational Association), the availability of scholarship support for families in need is essential to maintaining the vibrancy of our local Catholic schools.
Despite the record number of CEF scholarships provided last year, another 454 kids are awaiting our help right now to enroll in an Archdiocesan school. Help us be a symbol of God’s love for students like Maddie; learn more about supporting our annual event, Gaudeamus, or our 2017-18 Scholarship Drive at www.cefks.org.
This column appeared in The Leaven on September 15, 2017.