Inner-City Scholarship Fund holds annual dinner

Hundreds turned out decked in tuxedos and evening gowns for the 14th annual Inner-City Scholarship Fund (ICSF) Dinner at the Boston Marriott Copley Place March 4. The dinner is held every year by the Catholic Schools Foundation to thank contributors to the fund, which awards Catholic school scholarships to inner-city students.

During the dinner reception, ICSF chairman Peter S. Lynch announced that for the 2004-2005 academic year donors had contributed approximately $5.6 million to the fund — a $600,000 increase from the 2003 campaign.

The money is used to award partial Catholic school scholarships to students who would otherwise be unable to afford a Catholic education. Last year, the ICSF distributed scholarships to 5,000 young people. The $600,000 increase in donations, said Lynch, will allow the ICSF to assist between 500 and 600 additional students.

Lynch thanked the donors for their generosity and their dedication to Catholic education. He spoke of the gratitude of the students and their families for the opportunity to attend Catholic schools, saying “these people celebrate when they find out they got a partial scholarship.”

Although many students receive the scholarships, there are many more who go without assistance, Lynch stated. He said that approximately 11,000 inner city students will receive no financial assistance — “So we’re not all the way there yet.”

"This is a great investment," Lynch declared. "This is an investment that lasts a lifetime."

Since its inception in 1991, the ICSF has provided over $50 million in partial scholarships to approximately 40,000 needy students.

Each year at the reception one person is recognized with the Carolyn and Peter Lynch Award for his or her outstanding support of Catholic education. Stephen Zardis was selected as this year’s recipient.

Zardis, a graduate of Cathedral High School in Boston’s South End and disabled Vietnam veteran, was recognized for donating over $1 million to his former high school.

Zardis, a social worker and only child, worked hard after returning from the war to save money to take care of his parents in their old age. But his parents passed away, leaving him with the majority of his savings and a desire to put the money to good use. After seeing a television program on Cathedral High School, he decided to donate to his alma mater, making the largest monetary contribution in the school’s history.

In a video presentation shown at the dinner, Zardis recognized that not everyone can donate $1 million to an organization or cause, but said, “we’re all able to do something,” whether it be donating one hour of our time each week to read to someone or helping out at a soup kitchen.

"Whatever we can do, we should do, to put a purpose and a meaning in our lives," Zardis continued.

Keith Curtis Dimalanta, a senior at Boston College High School and scholarship recipient, shared what his Catholic education has meant to him. Dimalanta said that it was an “honor to finally be able to say what I’ve been able to do because of this” scholarship.

He told attendees of how he arrived in America from Luzon, an island in the Philippines, with his mother when he was 6 years old. He thanked his mother, Virginia, for the sacrifices she has made over the years, working long hours in order to send him to Catholic school. However, without the help of the ICSF, he said, it would have been impossible to attend Catholic schools.

"These scholarships are worth your money," Dimalanta told the donors. "Because of my great education ... I have become more aware of who I am and I hope to give it back by helping people and my community."

William J. Dorcena, deputy executive director of Boston 2004 Inc., the organizational committee hosting the 2004 Democratic National Convention, delivered the evening’s keynote address. “I stand here a true test of the love, care and spiritual guidance” of Catholic education, said Dorcena, who attended Catholic schools for 16 years and went on to co-found Boston’s first Haitian-American newspaper, the Boston Haitian Reporter.

When asked to speak about what a Catholic education means to him, Dorcena responded by saying that his schooling has given him “an appreciation of the human spirit.”

"Too many of us do not see people for people," Dorcena, who is working to ensure diverse participation in the upcoming Democratic convention. Labels are placed on people because of their culture, ethnicity, social class, etc., he said. His Catholic education helps him to see the "human spirit that exists in everyone," he said.

Archbishop Seán P. O’Malley presented a tribute to John M. Corcoran, a generous donor to Catholic education who passed away recently. In his lifetime, Corcoran donated to Boston’s inner city schools and contributed over $5 million to Boston College for the establishment of the Center for Christian-Jewish Learning.

"The Inner City Scholarship Fund has lost a great friend," the archbishop said of Corcoran.

Archbishop O’Malley thanked donors like Corcoran for their generosity to Catholic schools.

"Our young people are going to make a difference in our society, and you are a part of that difference because of all the support you have given to Catholic education," he said.