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September 8, 2014   •   VOL. 52, NO. 15   •   Oakland, CA
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Campaign helps schools
This is the first in a series of stories illustrating the ministries and missions of the Diocese of Oakland that will benefit from the Reclaiming Christ's Mission Together Capital Campaign. The campaign, which has a goal of $65 million, has started in about half of the parishes this year, with the rest joining in 2015. Featured in this story is the campaign's component that addresses Catholic school tuition assistance.
 

Seven hundred children went back to school with support from FACE — Family Aid Catholic Education.

That's up 25 from a year ago, thanks to the dedicated donors, foundation grants and a once-a-year gala that highlights the students from low-income families who are benefiting from the gift of Catholic education.

But many more students have demonstrated financial need that could not be met by existing sources.

Of the 4,000 students whose families applied for financial assistance through FACE, 3,800 qualified for it. Some received assistance from the BASIC Fund, which offers tuition assistance from kindergarten through eighth grade. Some schools have their own limited endowment funds for tuition assistance, particularly at the high school level.

The average tuition per elementary school student is $5,388. For high school, it's $12,519.

A FACE grant is $1,750 for elementary school and $3,050 for high school.

The No. 1 reason parents choose not to send their children to Catholic schools, according to a recent study, is the rising cost.

One of the key elements of the Diocese of Oakland's Capital Campaign — Reclaiming Christ's Mission Together — directly addresses the growing need of Catholic school families.

Among the campaign's goals is to build a $10 million Catholic Schools Tuition Endowment.

"Certainly FACE has done a very good job of providing tuition assistance for 36 years," said Ken Hokenson, executive director of mission advancement.

But he is mindful of the numbers of students whose needs have not been met, and looks forward to the $10 million endowment — and beyond.

"The more the endowment grows, the more kids will be assisted," he said.

The endowment will be administered through FACE, Hokenson said. "FACE already has the mechanism set up," he said.

Among the advocates for setting up a tuition assistance endowment fund was Archbishop Alex J. Brunett, the archbishop emeritus of Seattle, who served for eight months as apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Oakland between the departure of Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone to San Francisco and the ordination and installation of Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ.

Archbishop Brunett founded the Fulcrum Fund in Seattle in 2002; it grew to a $43 million endowment in seven years.

Bishop Barber has continued his predecessor's commitment to Catholic education.

"Since Bishop Barber is a teacher, he'd really like to get more kids in Catholic school," Hokenson said.

The endowment fund is great news for FACE. "This creates a permanent resource for us to provide tuition assistance grants," said Chris Good, associate director of FACE. "This puts 150 to 200 more kids permanently in elementary and high schools."

A permanent source of funding, Good said, "is the long-term future of our schools."

"This is part of our mission," he said, "Kids are our future. We are investing for them."

Families that receive tuition assistance grants get more than financial support, Good said. He shared a letter from a parent who wrote, in part: "I felt the support of the faithful reaching out to our little family as if to say 'Keep it up. Keep trying. Stay the course — it IS important."

That ability to touch the future becomes tangible in a thank you letter from Andy Nguyen, who received FACE grants as a child at St. Anthony Year Round School in Oakland and St. Joseph Notre Dame High School.

"My formation in the Catholic faith and the theological underpinnings of Catholicism had a profound effect on my beliefs in social justice and advocacy," he wrote. "These qualities led me to engage in community health in college in the U.S. and abroad in Spain and Nicaragua during my studies at Stanford University. I am now studying to become a physician as a first year student at Harvard Medical School."

Without FACE, he wrote, "It is difficult to believe that I would have had the same trajectory without having attended Catholic schools."

The capital campaign received an early boost when a longtime friend of Catholic education pledged $1 million, directing the gift for the tuition assistance.

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