White House honors Catholic School Champions – including one of our own

Published on January 25th, 2012

By Jim Cultrara

In anticipation of national Catholic Schools Week, Jan. 29 – Feb 4,  the White House today honored nine Catholic School Champions as part of the administration’s Champions for Change program.  Catholic Schools Week gave the White House an opportunity to acknowledge the contributions of Catholic schools and to explicitly honor and thank Catholic education leaders for making a difference in the lives of America’s school children.  My favorite quote from today’s ceremony, though I can’t recall who from the administration said it, was “Catholic schools are a lifeline for the children, families and neighborhoods that are struggling across America.” While it is appropriate (or should I say expected?) that lawmakers and public officials would use this one annual occasion to cuddle-up to Catholics, I still can’t get over the fact that it was the current administration that tried to end the District of Columbia’s highly successful Opportunity Scholarship Program – a program that enabled impoverished students to escape DC’s beleaguered public schools and to attend a school that worked, including Catholic schools. The families that are benefiting from the now restored DC scholarship program have House Speaker John Boehner and Senator Joe Lieberman to thank.  They’re the ones who forced the President to accept the restoration of the program.

But enough about politics.  Included among those honored today was Paul Krebbs, president of All Hallows High School in the Bronx – a school where four-letter words (i.e. can’t, won’t, fail) are not allowed.  Paul pointed out that All Hallows is located in and educates many of the students residing in the 16th Congressional District – the nation’s poorest – wherein the average family income is just over $19,000.  Nearly 80 percent of the students require financial assistance in order to make it possible for them to attend the school.  The surrounding community knows that graduates of All Hallows don’t just receive a high school diploma, they receive the chance to break free from the cycle of poverty – and indeed they do.  It’s a relatively bad year when only 95 percent of graduates go onto college.  And after college, knowing they received the gift of a Catholic education, the alumni give back to All Hallows, making it possible for the next generation to break free. Mr. Krebbs was not exaggerating when he said that the school wouldn’t survive without alumni support.  The graduates are living out one of the school’s unwritten motto: Learn, earn and return.

In his closing remarks at the White House event, Mr. Krebbs urged us to “…be proactive. Make things happen.  Be agents of change.”   Very fitting words if we’re going to provide all students with the opportunity to succeed – which, of course, brings us back to politics.

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