A Catholic school can make all the difference

''My son thought he was stupid." These were the words shared at the Catholic Schools Foundation's recent Bus Tour by a mother as she recounted her son's story. Listening to how her son's struggle with reading made him feel worthless was heartbreaking. However, this was the start of the story, not the end. This was the passion, not the resurrection!

This family is from a middle-class background and lives in what is considered a good public school district, not the profile of our typical scholar, but a series of events quickly resulted in an educational and familial crisis. As COVID-19 raged, the local school district shut down in-person learning, the mom, an ICU nurse, was working long, stress-filled hours, the child's learning challenges were emerging, and the parents' marriage was breaking apart. Testing determined that the child had severe learning challenges that required intervention, which were not addressed at the local school district and were exacerbated by the lack of in-person learning. The child was failing, he was emotionally distraught, and mom was struggling to hold things together. Sadly, this is not an uncommon story, but to hear it in the first-person is truly heart-wrenching.

In the local school district, her son was reduced to a statistic, and bureaucratic processes put protecting the district at the heart of decision-making. The challenges in school district reading programs were recently highlighted in an Oct. 4, 2023, article in The Boston Globe where Mandy McLaren and Naomi Martin observed, "Learning to read is the greatest gift a school can give a child. And yet here, in the birthplace of public education, outmoded teaching methods leave thousands of students struggling to gain this critical skill."

Given these incredible challenges, the mom knew that something had to change for her son. After meeting with the local Catholic school, she knew she found an answer. The school responded with empathy and thoughtfully considered how they might help. After careful review, the school was confident it had a reading program and team that would break this pattern of failure and put this child on a road to success. The only barrier was tuition.

This family was in crisis with additional financial stress from the divorce and just needed a one-time help to get through it. Thanks to the support of donors to the Catholic Schools Foundation, an emergency grant was all it took to get this child onto a different, more positive, and productive path. In this case, the support of CSF donors allowed us to live up to our slogan, "We Change Lives."

This young man now loves school and has moved on to a Catholic high school where he has the confidence to succeed. This small one-time grant from the emergency fund gave a family hope at a dark time and gave a student an opportunity to see his potential and be confident that he can succeed. This is what support of the Catholic Schools Foundation does; it gives hope and provides opportunity.

This story had a happy ending, but far too many students are being left behind. Even one student being made to feel stupid or worthless is one too many. Support of the Catholic Schools Foundation makes a difference but is only possible through the generosity of our donors.

The school principals and teachers do the real work of Catholic education, but through the Catholic Schools Foundation, we can all be a part of this life-changing work. Together, We Change Lives.

- Michael B. Reardon is executive director of the Catholic Schools Foundation, www.CSFBoston.org.