This September, there will be some new faces in the hallways at schools in the archdiocese as the first group of students to receive “Madrinas” scholarships will begin their Catholic school education.
More than 275 Hispanic and Latino elementary school students have received the $1,000 scholarships to attend Catholic schools. The program is a major initiative of the archdiocese in response to the Catholic School Advantage, a national campaign to improve the educational opportunities for Hispanic and Latino children.
The archdiocese is working on the Catholic School Advantage (CSA) campaign in partnership with the University of Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education.
Rudy Vargas IV, the New York field consultant of the Catholic School Advantage campaign, said in an interview, “The partnership between the Archdiocese of New York, the Catholic School Advantage, and CSA partner school principals and madrinas is building pathways for Hispanic and Latino families to enroll their children in Catholic school.”
Thanks to generous donor support and the fund-raising efforts of Dr. Timothy McNiff, superintendent of schools in the archdiocese, the number of scholarships has far exceeded the original number of 80 scholarships planned for the upcoming school year.
The goal of the Notre Dame initiative is to double the percentage of Latinos attending Catholic schools from 3 to 6 percent by 2020, bringing the national total to more than 1 million students.
There are 32 madrinas serving at the 18 C.S.A. partner schools in the archdiocese. “Madrinas” is the Spanish word for godmother. The madrinas serve as peer-to-peer marketers in the community. They serve as both recruiters and mentors to new families.
As part of the program, a one-time $1,000 scholarship based on financial need is available for newly enrolled Hispanic and Latino children. The students must be referred by a madrina. Vargas noted that the money is a great help in assisting families with tuition costs. “The families are very thankful for this support,” he told CNY.
The madrinas will serve as a friendly, familiar presence to families with students just starting Catholic school, Vargas explained.
“Compradrazco in the Hispanic/Latino community is a source of deep friendship, appreciation and trust. These elements of relationship are at the heart of what makes the madrinas program so successful,” he said. “The madrinas are the bridge-builders. They will welcome the new families. They are familiar with the school culture. They are really educating the family about Catholic education.”
David DiCerto, director for student recruitment, noted that the program “has allowed us to open the door to opportunity for these families.” He noted the Gospel imperative to “feed the hungry” and said the madrinas scholarships allow the education office to fulfill the hunger of families to provide a Catholic education for their children. “This program has allowed us to make this dream a reality,” he said.
Andrew Woods is principal at Our Lady Queen of Martyrs School in Manhattan, one of the CSA partner schools. Two madrinas, Michelle Eusebio and Arelis Suarez, serve the school and both are active parents.
Thanks to the efforts of the madrinas, 25 new students are enrolled for September, and the school’s kindergarten is filled for the first time. “It’s been a big help in terms of enrollment,” the principal said.
As people who are well known in the parish and neighborhood, the madrinas “are able to talk and explain how they really like the school,” said Woods, who noted that they reach families that might not otherwise enroll their children.
“I think it’s a great program, and I think it needs to continue,” Woods said.