Scholarships, academics & faith discussed at summit
DOUGLASTON — Schmeiderlyn Ulysse, an eighth-grader at Ss. Joachim and Anne Catholic Academy, Queens Village, wants to be a nurse and is grateful for the science classes she’s had in school and for Catholic education in general.
“With my Catholic education, I want to help others know the true meaning of what it means to spread the good news, and how to be a good Catholic, and knowing that God will always be by your side,” Schmeiderlyn said at the Catholic Education Summit on Oct. 23 at the Immaculate Conception Center in Douglaston, a conference that brought together students, parents and educators from schools in the Diocese of Brooklyn.
The conference provided an opportunity for the schools to promote three of their attributes: They are affordable for many low-income families because of scholarships; they outperform public schools academically; and they teach faith-based values.
The event in Douglaston showcased Futures in Education, the diocesan tuition assistance program, which has awarded $107 million to more than 30,000 students since it was founded 31 years ago. According to Futures, 31 percent of families helped by the program live below the poverty line, and 4,500 students benefit each year from the scholarship programs.
Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, who attended the conference, noted the strong academics at Catholic schools.
As reported previously in The Tablet, Catholic schools outperformed public schools in New York state and New York City in standardized tests in English Language Arts. In math, fourth-, sixth- and seventh-graders did better than their public-school counterparts.
In parochial schools in the diocese, 54.7 percent of fourth-graders met or exceeded ELA standards during the 2018-19 school year, which was 5.1 percentage points above public schools in New York City and 7 percentage points above public schools statewide. In the sixth and seventh grades, the percentage of diocesan students achieving those scores was 10 to 15 percentage points above public schools both city and statewide.
At the conference, Catholic school officials pointed to statistics showing that a Catholic education pays off “spiritually” in terms of prayer and religious life.
For example, according to the diocesan Office of the Superintendent, millennial Catholics who attended Catholic schools are seven times more likely to attend weekly Mass than millennial adults who attended public or other schools.
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- Catholic school students are also more likely to pray daily, attend church more often, retain their Catholic identity in adulthood, and are faithful stewards
- 51 percent of those ordained to priesthood attended Catholic grade school, and 43% attended Catholic high school
- Men who attended a Catholic high school are more than six times as likely to consider a priestly or religious vocation.
- Women who attended a Catholic elementary school are three times as likely to consider being a religious sister
Beyond the numbers, those at the conference spoke of the fulfillment a Catholic education brings.
Christina Rivera, a 1998 graduate of St. Sebastian in Woodside, shared her excitement to be able to provide her daughter, Sofia, who is in the sixth grade, the same opportunities she had.
“I’m a product of Catholic education: St. Sebastian’s, The Mary Louis Academy, and Fordham University,” Rivera said. “It’s important as parents because we really want to give everything we can for our children to succeed, and that we raise kids who are fundamentally good.
“[At St. Sebastian’s], Sofia even has a couple of the same teachers I had. She’s very proud, and it’s a nice way for us to connect. She’s been continually challenged academically, she is growing spiritually, and she has made many lifelong friendships.”
John Paul, a graduate from Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament Catholic Academy, Bayside, who now attends Archbishop Molloy H.S., Briarwood,, said that his education helped to form him “spiritually and educationally, and allowed me to get into the high school of my choice.”
Father Jorge Ortiz-Garay, pastor of St. Brigid, Bushwick, which has a parish school, said that Catholic education helps his immigrant-heavy parish “obtain their American dream, which is an education for their children.”
“It’s an investment of the future for our kids,” he said.