By Ruby Thomas, Record Staff Writer
Families who reach out to the Community Catholic Center (CCC) in the Portland neighborhood, usually do so for tuition assistance for Catholic schools, but soon find there is much more to the center, said Heidi Hamilton, executive director of CCC.
The center’s “headline” is tuition assistance, she said. “That gets people in the door. Then a world of possibilities opens up.”
The CCC serves families throughout the West End — west of 9th Street and north of Algonquin Parkway — by helping parents who want their children to receive a Catholic education. It opened in 2003 after Community Catholic School, the last Catholic school in West Louisville, closed.
The center offers tuition assistance and a variety of family support services, such as after school tutoring, counseling and family gatherings.
In 2015, the CCC set a goal to double its enrollment by the 2017-2018 school year — increasing from serving about 50 students to about 100 students. As the school year gets underway, the center has nearly reached its goal. So far this year, 95 students have enrolled in the center’s program and 23 of them are new to the center.
One of the center’s newest programs is a school bus service for preschool through eighth-grade students who attend St.
Leonard School, 440 Zorn Ave., and St.
James School, 1818 Edenside Ave. The bus service — started last year thanks in part to “seed money” donated by the Archdiocese of Louisville and the Catholic Education Foundation — is a “tremendous success,” said Hamilton.
Families pay $200 a year and St. Leonard and St. James schools provide funding from a student transportation subsidy they receive from the state of Kentucky. The CCC also helps to fund the bus service, said Hamilton during an interview Aug. 25.
Hamilton said in working with families, she realized that transportation created a bigger obstacle, more so than tuition sometimes, to West End kids attending Catholic schools. Hamilton calls the bus service “one of the best investments” the center has made.
“It helps families and lets them know that we can overcome hurdles,” she said. When the center and families work together, the kids “flourish,” said Hamilton. The kids are excited when they get to the center after school, she said. “They want to tell us about their day. You know it’s working.”
The school bus picks up and drops off students at the CCC and the Catholic Enrichment Center, 3146 West Broadway. Twenty-nine students rode the bus last year and 36 are bus riders this year.
The center is also seeing success in higher education outcomes recently. It has always aimed to create a “high school-going culture,” said Hamilton. Now, she said, the center is creating a “college-going culture,” by showing students and parents that a college education is possible.
Two students served by the center since kindergarten graduated from high school this year and are now freshmen in college. There are also two high school seniors this year whom Hamilton says are college-bound.
Staff members at the CCC foster this “college-going culture” by helping students to prepare for the ACT and SAT college entrance exams. They also help to educate parents on how to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) forms.
“We’re showing them that we can do it and that helps to take away the scary,” said Hamilton.
Hamilton said the center is always looking for volunteers to help with the afterschool program, which is offered Monday, Tuesday and Thursday from 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
She noted that volunteers do not need to have a background in education. “If you can read to your child, you can help,” she said.
Volunteers also are needed to help with family gatherings, held regularly to keep parents and students involved.
For the past six years, the center has offered a school supply shop — another way to ease the burden for parents who’ve chosen a Catholic education for their children, said Hamilton.
Through the shop, parents are able to get backpacks and all the school supplies their children need for the new school year. This year’s donations came from Holy Spirit Church and School and from employees of Interlock Industries Inc., a local sheet metal contractor.
It’s through partnerships like these that the center functions, said Hamilton. Working together is the way to solve problems, she added.
To learn more about the CCC or to volunteer call 424-9398.