Let’s hear it for the intrepid staff at St. Anthony High School in Jersey City, N.J., who have not only embarked on a bold multimedia fundraising campaign to secure the school’s future, Anthony 2020, but have also created a new online community, Faith in Education, showcasing the success stories of Catholic schools across the country. The site’s creators hope to spark conversation about Catholic schools on a national level.
Kathleen Staudt, development director of St. Anthony’s, bluntly describes the shuttering of Catholic schools in America as “a national crisis.” “Those involved are passionate about the issue,” she says, “but the stories across the United States are told regionally and sporadically. We thought we could do a real service to the community by gathering them and sharing them on a daily basis.”
So with a true Catholic spirit, rather than an every-man-for-himself shrug, the folks at St. Anthony decided to create an online space where Catholic schools might proclaim their successes and trade stories about what works and why.
Of course they’re hoping that this also will benefit St. Anthony, most of whose students live close to the poverty line. The school’s website says that St. Anthony “is more than a school to its students and faculty: it represents safety, security, family, home, and future.” Any parent with a child in a Catholic school, particularly a school that serves the poor, will recognize this description. It is not overly dramatic nor sappy. It is simply the truth of what great Catholic schools do. Many of the students in schools such as St. Anthony would, without a school like this, be stuck in dismal and often dangerous public high schools where their chances of getting into college would plummet. Kids in unstable family situations find Catholic schools such as this one to be places of stability and purpose, offering support and encouragement they can depend on.
For the past 20 years, the college acceptance rate at St. Anthony has been the same three-digit number: 100%. The school sends its kids to Brown, Vanderbilt, the University of Chicago. Last year’s senior class hauled in $7 million in college scholarship awards and financial aid. The high school’s tuition is a measly $5,700, but of course the education actually costs $11,400, meaning that the school must raise about $1.5 million each year to cover the difference. Numbers like these would send many a Fortune 500 exec running for the door, but the folks at St. Anthony, like their counterparts at Catholic schools across the country, cheerfully roll up their sleeves and get to work. If you’re looking for somewhere to give alms this Lent, check them out.
Remember, Catholic schools are the best anti-poverty initiative ever devised by the American Catholic Church. And no one can ever take your great Catholic education away from you.
Image: Tom Wright