5/16/12 | 818 views
Madrinas Aim to Bolster Hispanic Enrollment
It begins with simple things: a flier, a phone call and an introduction. And from that grows a relationship that can lead to a life-changing moment for Hispanic and Latino families interested in sending their child to Catholic school.
In school communities around the archdiocese, women known as “madrinas,” the Spanish word for godmother, are spreading the word about the advantages of Catholic education.
The Madrinas Program is a major initiative of the archdiocese in response to the Catholic School Advantage, a national campaign to improve educational opportunities for Hispanic and Latino children. The goal is to double the percentage of Latinos attending Catholic schools from 3 percent to 6 percent by 2020, bringing the national total to more than 1 million students.
The archdiocese is working on the Catholic School Advantage campaign in partnership with The University of Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education. Rudy Vargas IV is the New York field consultant of the Catholic School Advantage campaign.
Alicia Torres, a madrina at Blessed Sacrament School in the Bronx, is familiar with the community there. Her daughter is a graduate of the school, and her granddaughter is a third-grade student.
Ms. Torres told CNY that an effective strategy in informing families that spots are available at Blessed Sacrament is through posting fliers in stores, day care centers and, best of all, the parish church.
“Because they are part of the parish, they are very religious and they see some of the events they have when our students are present,” she said. “They get interested.”
As part of the program, “Madrinas Scholarships” are available for newly enrolled Hispanic and Latino children. The scholarship is for $1,000, based on financial need, at CSA-partner elementary schools. Students must be referred by a madrina. The Madrinas Program began in September at 26 schools—and the first group of 80 students will be notified of their scholarships this month.
A reception for school principals and madrinas was held May 10 at the New York Catholic Center in Manhattan. Dr. Timothy McNiff, superintendent of schools, used the occasion to announce that $825,000 has been raised from private donors to help Hispanic and Latino families attend Catholic schools in the archdiocese.
In an interview, Dr. McNiff spoke of the rich history of Catholic schools in assisting ethnic groups to assimilate into American society, in particular noting the Italians, Irish and Germans.
“We need to do a better job helping our Hispanic neighbors do just that,” he said. “The madrinas will be the bridge between building that relationship between our schools and our Hispanic families.”
At Blessed Sacrament School in the Bronx, both Ms. Torres and Emma Esquilin, another madrina, have grandchildren who are students.
Herminia Roman, principal of Blessed Sacrament, told CNY, “They are part of the community. They are familiar with the culture of the school.” Their own experience “allows them to have that friendly comfort people need.”
Ms. Roman told CNY that the Madrinas Program, and the women who carry it out, play a particularly important role in the school’s Bronx neighborhood. “It’s very important in the Hispanic community that exists where our school is,” she said. “They are part of the parish. They desire to be a part of our school community, that’s like a dream for them. This is a program allowing that dream to become a reality.”
Other Catholic school communities feel the same way, and their madrinas have implemented welcoming programs and events for Hispanic and Latino families. At St. Peter’s School in Yonkers, the madrinas there invited families to a special mother’s and grandmother’s day dinner. At Mount Carmel-Holy Rosary School in Harlem, cultural events have been held specifically for Hispanic and Latino families, including one to celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
The most important factor is extending a warm welcome. Iveliss Vargas, a madrina at Our Lady Queen of Angels in Manhattan, told CNY, “My role is to welcome people into our school. You want to make them feel comfortable.
“This is a place they’re going to have their children,” she said. “It’s like their second home.” Kind and friendly, Ms. Vargas said that she generally starts her conversations simply with “hola mi amor,” saying, “I think the word love accomplishes a lot.”
Joanne Walsh has been principal of Our Lady Queen of Angels for eight years. She considers the program crucial, saying that she has met many parents who may not otherwise know of the school, and others who could not afford to send their children without the scholarships.
“This whole initiative is mindful outreach,” she said. “It takes away the business edge, it’s important and it’s appropriate. It’s respectful of people’s cultures.”
She added of the madrinas, “It’s nice to have them walk along with the families through the process.
“The faith piece is important among our Latino parents,” she said. Many families in the area do not have the discretionary income needed to send their children to Catholic school. Ms. Walsh added, “Given the opportunity to put their children in our schools is their preference.”
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