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Culture



Catholic Schools Foundation

Equal opportunity education

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Reflecting on the great work of Dr. King reminds us that there is more work to be done. At CSF, we will continue to leverage the generosity of our supporters to create opportunities for in-need students.

Michael
Reardon

The celebration of Martin Luther King Day this past week is an opportunity to think about our impact on the world around us. It is an opportunity to reflect on our actions and attitude toward our brothers and sisters. As we enter 2021 amidst the political, health, and economic turmoil facing our country and world, there has never been a better time for such reflection.

Reminding us that we are all God's children, Dr. King courageously promoted equality and opportunity for all people regardless of the color of their skin. Much good has happened since Dr. King peacefully led our country to confront the ugly reality of racism. However, there is still much work to be done to build a world where people are "not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character."

"The Catholic Schools Foundation (CSF) changes lives by providing families with demonstrated financial need an opportunity to give their sons and daughters a quality education, focused on Christian values and character formation at Catholic schools located throughout the Archdiocese of Boston, regardless of race, religion, ethnicity or gender." This is the CSF mission statement, but these are only words without the teachers and staff in the schools who do the work each day, and the donors who provide the financial support to give at-risk students access to the opportunity provided by a Catholic education. The pandemic shows our local Catholic schools' commitment to students and families, with almost 80 percent of them fully in-person and the balance in various forms of hybrid learning, based on the conditions in their school and community.

The decision to put students first took courage and faith and was driven by a belief in equality -- a belief that all students deserve a quality education regardless of where they live or their socioeconomic status. Courage, faith, and equality are words we are reminded of when we think of Dr. King, and are worthy of reflection in our own work at CSF.

Courage. Opening your doors to in-person learning in the midst of a global pandemic is no small thing. To take a leap of faith in order to provide your students with the highest quality learning experience you can is a risk with immeasurable benefits, if you can do it safely. And that is just what CSF schools did. When the pandemic struck, CSF schools were working to create a plan in a matter of days that allowed students to learn in-person, while maintaining the health and wellbeing of their staff and student body. CSF schools have been open since July, safely and effectively. They have earned well-deserved praise from within the Massachusetts education landscape and beyond for setting the bar with their in-person model.

Faith. Education in a Catholic school is not just about the high-quality curriculum; it is about the morals, values, and faith infused throughout the academic program. It is about understanding how each class and program is not an end but part of the continued development of God-given gifts, and with those gifts come responsibilities. As we reflect on the recent year, we see that there is an urgent need for values-based education. We are reminded of a quote by Dr. King: "Education without morals is like a ship without a compass -- merely wandering nowhere."

Equality. CSF schools operate on one fundamental idea: that every child, regardless of their religion, race, gender, ethnicity, or country of origin, deserves the opportunity that a high-quality education provides. At CSF, 34 percent of the students we send to Catholic schools are Hispanic, another 33 percent are black, and 13 percent come from other diverse ethnic backgrounds. We are a foundation that believes that education can be a great equalizer -- that it can break generational cycles of poverty and place students on a path towards fulfillment. A full 100 percent of the high school students we support graduate high school, and 98 percent move on to college, despite economic, familial, and societal circumstances beyond their control. This is undeniable proof that Catholic schools work.

Reflecting on the great work of Dr. King reminds us that there is more work to be done. At CSF, we will continue to leverage the generosity of our supporters to create opportunities for in-need students. We will continue to fight until every child has a fair shot at a great education.

Although there is much work still to be done, we are confident that leading with courage, developing not just a student's academic mind but building their character, and advocating equality for all, makes a difference. It changes lives.

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



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