By Jessica Able, Record Staff Writer
Richard A. Lechleiter, president of the Catholic Education Foundation (CEF), reported that in the first full school year of the Catholic Elementary School Plan — a fundraising initiative, in part — the CEF and the Archdiocese of Louisville have awarded more than $5 million in tuition aid to 2,400 students in Catholic elementary schools in the area.
Lechleiter delivered these statistics at the 26th Salute to Catholic School Alumni dinner held March 16 at the Galt House Hotel.
The Catholic Elementary School Plan was announced in the fall of 2014 by the CEF and the archdiocese with the aim of expanding tuition assistance to families in need.
“The first year under this plan was a resounding success,” he said. “The number of students impacted under the new plan grew 60 percent from our previous record high.
Lechleiter said together the foundation and the archdiocese are well on their way to adding 1,000 students to Catholic elementary schools, a goal stated at last year’s “Salute” dinner.
“While that seems a very daunting task, the outcome is not in doubt. We are already growing our Catholic school enrollments in the most unlikely places,” he said.
St. Rita School in Okolona, which Lechleiter said nearly closed two years ago, has added 45 students, many of whom are of Latino descent. It is now the fastest growing Catholic elementary school in Central Kentucky, he said.
St. Athanasius School in Highview has grown by 24 students, Lechleiter said. This is the first time their enrollment has increased in a decade.
St. Paul School on Dixie Highway grew by 33 students. The school now has full pre-kindergarten and kindergarten classes, “which bodes well for their future in that community,” Lechleiter said.
Ascension School in St. Regis Park, which Lechleiter said has had declining enrollment for many years, is now on the rise. The school added 33 students this year.
Lechleiter also named the increase in enrollment at St. Catherine Academy in New Haven, Ky. The school in Nelson County has seen a 15 percent increase in enrollment in a year.
And St. Nicholas Academy on New Cut Road will add a second kindergarten class next fall to accommodate the school’s growing numbers, he said.
Lechleiter said Catholic schools are the best way to connect faith, family and learning.
“At a Catholic school, kids learn that service to others is the best definition of self-worth, that sacrifice is in fact its own reward, that giving back is an obligation, not an option,” he said.
Those three lessons, Lechleiter said, will propel “our kids to new heights.”
At the “Salute” dinner, Lechleiter called on those present to invite others to join the mission of the foundation.
He said that regardless of the success in the early days of the campaign, there are still thousands of families that “drive by Catholic schools every day and think to themselves, ‘Wouldn’t it be wonderful if our family were a part of a Catholic school?’
“And then they turn to despair. They despair because they don’t have the money to pay for tuition,” he said.
Lechleiter said those days are over.
“From now on, for anyone that yearns for this experience for their children to go to a Catholic school, the answer is yes. The answer is always yes,” he said.
For more information on the Catholic Education Foundation, visit ceflou.org.