One piece of the Archdiocese of Omaha's 2012 plan for strengthening Catholic schools in eastern Omaha calls for reaching out to Latino families and increasing their enrollment in the schools.
One tool that's expected to help is the Latino Catholic Scholarship Fund of Omaha.
Incorporated in 2003 to provide financial aid to Latino students to attend inner-city Catholic grade schools, the fund recently has been revitalized as part of the enhanced outreach to the growing Latino community laid out in the plan, called Promise 2020.
An estimated 42,000 Latinos live east of 72nd Street, according to the plan. That number is up 60 percent — or by more than 15,000 — in the past decade.
Rob Laird, principal of Assumption-Guadalupe Catholic School, which recently closed after 100 years, said the fund benefited from a recent fundraiser at St. Margaret Mary Church and is expected to have about $100,000 to distribute next year to help cover tuition at six schools: Sts. Peter and Paul, St. Philip Neri, Holy Name, All Saints, St. Bernard and Sacred Heart.
The fund likely will assist families that aren't funded by the Children's Scholarship Fund of Omaha or who need help beyond what that fund can provide, Laird said.
The larger Children's Scholarship Fund provides private and parochial school tuition assistance to families that qualify under federal guidelines for free or reduced-price lunches and that meet several other criteria.
“We look at ourselves as a safety net,” Laird said.
In the past, he said, awards through the Latino scholarship fund went to schools to cover the gap between the cost of tuition and the cost to educate a child. Now funds will go directly to families.
The fund also is expected to help Latino families cover the difference in tuition among schools.
The archdiocese announced earlier this year that tuition next fall at five schools that will become part of the new Omaha Catholic Schools Consortium will be $2,250 for one child, $3,450 for two, $4,250 for three and $4,500 for four. Assumption-Guadalupe's single-child rate was $1,550.
Assumption-Guadalupe, St. Stanislaus and Holy Ghost Schools closed under the realignment portion of the archdiocese's plan that created the consortium.
Laird said about 56 percent of families with returning students at Assumption-Guadalupe, which has a largely Latino student body, planned to attend Sts. Peter and Paul next year. The school, near 36th and X Streets, is being readied to be more welcoming to Latino students and families.
But Laird said he expected the numbers to increase as details of the Latino scholarship fund got out. The fund will accept applications until sometime early this month, according to archdiocesan officials. Funds received through the Children's Scholarship Fund also will follow students to their new schools.
So far, Laird said, most of the applications have come from families with children who will attend Sts. Peter and Paul — some from those who have been at the school and some from those who were at Assumption-Guadalupe.
Not counting the St. Margaret Mary event, more than $750,000 has been raised toward the Latino scholarship fund's efforts since 2003, according to the archdiocese.
The main fundraiser is an event called Supporting All Latinos in Spirituality and Academics. It began as a dinner and auction and now is an underwriting initiative with an auction near Cinco de Mayo.
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