Dozens of additional students in Western New York will receive tuition assistance to attend a Catholic school next year, thanks to the Upon This Rock campaign.
Next September, about $250,000 is expected to be made available for tuition assistance as a first installment from the Upon This Rock capital campaign, which may eventually grant $600,000 in Catholic school tuition assistance per year.
"This is significant," said Sister Carol Cimino, SSJ, superintendent of Catholic Schools. "Imagine the multiplier effect that this has. For each one of those children who gets a quality Catholic education, there are so many more who can be affected by that one person."
Half of the money will go toward eligible students in the elementary grades and the other half will be designated for those wishing to attend local Catholic high schools. The elementary aid will be distributed to families through the BISON Fund, which already helps about 750 students to attend Catholic schools each year.
"Our studies indicate that more families want to attend Catholic school, but feel that they can't afford it," said Richard Suchan, executive director of the Foundation of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Buffalo. "There's a wait list at just about every single school. More middle-class families are squeezed out of making Catholic school an option."
Suchan points out that while the Upon This Rock campaign has been blessed to receive commitments of over $100 million, the pledge payments will be coming in over a period of several years and many of those dollars will be distributed as endowed funds, in which the interest income will be used annually to support programs such as tuition assistance. "We think, for elementary school, we'll be able to help an additional 230 children per year when it's fully funded. For high school, we'll be able to help about 100 families."
"This shows that the Diocese of Buffalo gives Catholic education prioritization," said Suchan. "It does recognize Catholic grade school and Catholic high school is important for the future of our Church. It's important to families. For generations, Catholic education has changed the lives of many individuals. Education can break the chain of poverty and can set a kid on a totally different trajectory. This is allowing more families and more kids to have that opportunity."
Sister Carol is hoping this additional tuition assistance helps a new circle of families which may not have qualified for assistance before. "For some of those families, $1,000 may have been the difference. The more kids we give a good Catholic education, the more they're going to be connected with the Church."
Parents are advised to apply online through the BISON Fund (http://bisonfund.com/our-scholarships/) to be considered in the application process for February 2018.
"There were Catholic schools here before there were public schools here," said Sister Carol, noting that St. Aloysius School in Springville was founded in 1836. "The roots of the diocese are in Catholic schools. We've always been the ones doing education. We have a graduation rate of 99 percent. Who's getting the return on the money? Our entire community is. We're doing a magnificent job."