It Takes a Village: How the Catholic Education Foundation Empowers Educational Dreams
Across the nation, 1000s of children want to attend Catholic schools but many don’t have the necessary resources to do so. One organization in Kansas City, however, has made it their mission to help those students realize their dreams.
The Catholic Education Foundation (CEF) began in 1997 to support the under-resourced Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas. Ultimately, the goal of CEF is to ensure that any family seeking a high-quality, college-preparatory education for their children is able to do so regardless of financial circumstances. To accomplish this, CEF provides scholarships for low-income children to attend Catholic elementary (K-8) and high schools. There is NO requirement that the student is Catholic to attend the school or receive assistance.
Since 2006, CEF has distributed $13.3 million in scholarship funding and now invests more than $2 million annually back into quality Catholic college-preparatory education.
The Benefits of a Catholic Education
The academic outcomes for the students CEF serves are significant:
- 97% of students at the CEF high school graduate (compared to just 70% of students at the neighborhood high school three blocks away).
- 97% of graduates at the CEF high school enroll in college (compared to fewer than 40% of their peers at the neighborhood school).
In addition, Catholic school graduates are more civically engaged, more likely to vote, more tolerant of diverse views, and more committed to service as adults. Research shows that they’re also more likely to pray daily, attend church more often, retain a Catholic identity as an adult, and donate more to the Church.
Ways the CEF Fundraises
CEF has 14 revenue streams, including an annual gala called Gaudeamus (“Let us rejoice”). Gaudeamus brings together more than 1,500 guests each fall for a celebration of Catholic education, and typically raises more than $1 million annually for scholarships.
CEF also has a young professionals group, the CEF Futures Committee, that hosts fundraisers for CEF scholarships. The Futures’ signature event is an annual art auction at Boulevard Brewery in February, which sells out every year. The Futures Committee also hosts “Cocktails for a Cause” in the spring to benefit CEF scholarships.
Other revenue streams for CEF scholarships include individual giving, grants, corporate support, gifts from parishes and schools, endowment revenue, planned giving and peer-to-peer fundraising.
Fundraising challenges and how to overcome them
The greatest challenge is to close the gap between the resources currently available and the number of children in poverty seeking scholarship assistance to attend a CEF school. Since 2007, CEF has more than tripled its annual scholarship awards, from $612,000 in 2007 to more than $2.2 million this year. Despite this, there are 495 additional students who would like to enroll in a CEF school but cannot do so without additional scholarship support.
To help close the gap, CEF has significantly grown its annual fundraising event, Gaudeamus. In addition, CEF also has significantly grown its donor database and steadily increased the number of individual donors from 108 in 2007 to nearly 1,000 donors last year. CEF also has worked hard to engage younger donors through its CEF Futures Committee.
Regina’s husband died unexpectedly, leaving her to raise their two young daughters alone. Regina wasn’t Catholic at the time, but she had some concerns about the school in her neighborhood, and wanted another educational opportunity for her daughters. One evening, she put them into the car and began driving around. She came upon a CEF school, and wrote down the phone number on the sign. The next morning she called the school, explaining that she wasn’t Catholic and didn’t think she could afford the tuition, but was interested in enrolling her daughters. They told her about scholarships from the Catholic Education Foundation and helped her daughters enroll. They were in 6th grade and 2nd grade at the time. Both girls flourished in their new school, and as a family, they made the decision to become Catholic and join the parish. Regina is now remarried and has 4 daughters in CEF schools. Her oldest is a senior in high school and is excelling academically. She plans to attend college next year and wants to study engineering or design. The youngest is in kindergarten this year. Regina and her husband both work full-time (Regina in health care, her husband in construction), but would not be able to afford tuition for their 4 children without the assistance of the Catholic Education Foundation.
How a child becomes a CEF scholarship recipient
To receive a CEF scholarship, a family applies for financial aid at the school the student will attend. CEF assists 22 schools in Northeast Kansas with scholarship support; in each of those schools, a minimum of 15% of students qualify for the federal free/reduced lunch program, meaning that their families are living near the federal poverty line. In some CEF schools, as many as 80% of the students qualify for free or reduced lunch.
Ways to help the CEF
CEF graduates are up to three times more likely to attend college as their peers. And Catholic school graduates are more likely to vote, be civically engaged, and actively serve their communities. Help us spread the word about the impact of CEF schools by sharing this infographic with your friends or inviting them to our social media channels.
We’d also love to see you at an upcoming event; join us to see why our annual celebration consistently ranks among the Top Ten events in Kansas City. Like to help with events or volunteer in your area of expertise? Contact us about joining one of our committees, like the Futures young professionals group or an event committee. Finally, help us raise the $2.2 million we need this year to fund more than 1,600 scholarships by supporting our WonderWe campaign and sharing it with your network.