BOSTON — Everyone entering the Boston Marriott at Copley Place for the 15th-annual Inner-City Scholarship Fund Dinner Celebration on March 3 was promptly greeted by scores of Catholic students who one-by-one thanked participants.
“It’s nice greeting people, meeting people,” said Robert Donovan, 12, one of four volunteer greeters from Gate of Heaven School in South Boston.
He spoke of what he likes about the Catholic school, which he has been attending since December, between handshakes and smiles. He has more homework at Gate of Heaven, but the teachers are nicer and he likes the other students in his class, he said.
The Inner-City Scholarship Fund of the Catholic Schools Foundation raised over $6.3 million and gave scholarships to 6,300 students attending Catholic schools last year, said Peter Lynch, chairman of the fund for the last 14 years.
Although the organization was able to help more students than ever before, Lynch recognized that many students did not receive scholarships.
“We’re getting closer there, but we’re not there yet,” he said.
Two awards were presented at the fund dinner — the Building Minds, Changing Lives Award was presented to Central Catholic High School in Lawrence and the Carolyn and Peter Lynch Award presented to John J. Remondi.
Central Catholic was recognized for providing the opportunity and the resources for their students to excel in academic endeavors. Last September, the school opened a new $12 million wing to create room for more incoming students, said Principal David M. DeFillippo, who accepted the award, the first of its kind, on behalf of the school.
Central Catholic has stayed true to its founding mission of helping students in need, he said.
“Ninety-nine percent of these inner-city graduates go on to university study every year,” he said. “Without the Catholic Schools Foundation, generous donors, Central Catholic High School would be seriously limited in its ability to fulfill its commitment to Lawrence’s inner-city students.”
“Our work is not done,” DeFillippo hastened to add, saying even with the expansion, the school must turn away hundreds of students each year.
Jorge Castellanos, a senior at Cathedral High School in Boston, spoke about what the scholarship he received from the foundation meant to him. Castellanos was born in Honduras and moved to the United States with his mother. She wanted to provide a better life for him, but their life here was anything but stable, and they moved five times in three years. After moving to Dorchester, Castellanos was able to attend Cathedral High with a scholarship. Although he had always been a good student, he struggled his first two years of high school, he said.
“What I learned in high school is that you need more than brains to succeed,” he said.
Castellanos was able to refocus and bring his 1.3 GPA up to a 3.0 by the end of his junior year.
“To become victorious and successful is not to come out on top but rather to help those around you get there. It’s knowing you have worked hard for everything you have achieved,” he said.
Castellanos hopes to go to Boston College next year. After graduation, he would like to go back to Honduras and help other children receive an education, he said.
Archbishop Seán P. O’Malley gave the Benediction, and told a story about his father, who last May sent him an envelope full of his report cards from first grade through college. His father had been saving them for half a century.
“It brought home to me how much parents are concerned and focused on the education of their children. Many of us in this room had the privilege and the joy of going to Catholic schools for our entire education,” he said. “I’m here to tell you how crucial the work of the Catholic Schools Foundation is for the survival of Catholic schools and for our ability to offer a wonderful Catholic education to so many children who would not have this opportunity.”
Many attendees said they support the work of the Inner-City Scholarship Fund and were glad to see the benefit the fund provides to children.
Alexandra de Buy Wenniger said the fund dinner was “inspirational” and that she enjoyed seeing the children who were directly affected by the money she donated. Money given to the fund goes straight to student scholarships, not peripheral costs, she said.
Other attendees, like Regina Dahlborg, who has four children in Catholic schools, said they were glad to see the fund fulfilling an urgent need.
“It’s very sobering to see what’s out there — what kind of need there is,” she said.