Editorial 2-2-12

A Salute to Catholic Schools

Every once in a while it’s okay to toot your own horn, blow your own whistle, pat yourself on the back — especially when it comes to talking about Archdiocese of Louisville schools.

That’s because the schools annually produce the numbers — and the quality students — to back up that sense of pride with solid, quantifiable information.

Every so often in this space and in other sections of The Record, we have good things to say about our archdiocesan schools. It’s not a matter of repeating ourselves; it’s a matter of there being so much good news to report when it comes to the excellence of our educational product.

For instance, information compiled by Superintendent of Schools Leisa Schulz presents a remarkable profile of the 1,411 seniors who graduated from Archdiocese of Louisville high schools last May. The numbers speak for themselves:The class of 2011 included 11 National Merit Finalists and 13 National Merit Semi-Finalists.

  • The class also included 13 National Merit Commended Students, and 11 students were awarded National Merit Special Scholarships.
  • There were 65 Governor’s Scholars in the class.
  • It also included seven Governor’s School for the Arts students.
  • Together the graduates received 2,642 scholarships valued at $96.3 million. They also received $5.1 million in KEES awards.
  • Ninety-seven percent of the students went on to college or other post-secondary school education after graduation.
  • And perhaps as impressive as any of the other numbers, high school students in the archdiocese last year contributed 193,150 service hours.

That last figure is staggering. If divided into days, that means the students provided the equivalent of 8,048 days of service to agencies and organizations that assist people in our community who need our help.

That alone is a source of pride, but the reasons for such a feeling are easily justified when all the above numbers are considered.

And here’s something else to think about here in the middle of Catholic Schools Week: We also have in our midst an organization that stands hand-in-hand with Catholic school students and their families, helping them achieve the consistent stories of success reflected in the numbers above.

The Catholic Education Foundation will hold its annual Salute to Catholic School Alumni on the 14th of next month, and that event serves as an avatar for the work the CEF does year in and year out to promote educational success.

The Salute itself pre-dates the creation of the foundation, which was launched in 1997.

The annual banquet and celebration honoring Catholic school alumni began in 1990. Rosemary Bisig Smith, executive director of the CEF, said last week that the Salute was not intended at first to be a fund-raising event. “It began as an outgrowth of a committee that was looking to increase public relations awareness for the archdiocese,” she said.

But the Salute couldn’t help but become a source of funds for education. Over the years it has become a part of the fabric of the community, and the annual March dinner and celebration sells out. In fact, last year people had to be turned away. “I’ve never given anyone their money back before, but last year I had to do it,” Smith noted.

It’s because the Salute has become such a success that it’s almost a self-fulfilling prophesy — it honors Catholic school alumni and in doing so brings in money to help students attend Catholic schools and perhaps become future honorees themselves.

Last year the Salute raised $355,000 — a record. “Even with that success, the truth is we’re still something of a well-kept secret, just as the CEF is,” Smith said.

A few months ago the CEF announced that it had adopted a new strategic plan to more than double the amount of aid it provides in the next five years. According to a story in The Record on Sept. 1, with the new plan the foundation hopes to raise $5 million over the next five years, and in 2016, it hopes to begin awarding $3 million annually in tuition assistance and grants.

That’s an ambitious undertaking. But the proof, as all our grandparents used to say, is always in the pudding. And the success of Catholic education in the Archdiocese of Louisville is undeniable. This week and at the annual Salute on March 14, we are all celebrating that success. And we should all remember the work of the Catholic Education Foundation and the role it plays in making these success stories come to life.

Glenn Rutherford

Record Editor

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