By Tim Harfmann
ELMHURST — Seventh-grader Ashley Cela was enrolled in public school until last year, when St. Bartholomew Catholic Academy provided her family with a scholarship.
“It means a lot to us because it’s really giving me a chance to study in a Catholic school, and it’s really helping my parents,” Ashley said.
The Celas are one of almost 50 local families receiving tuition help this year, and the Elmhurst academy is one of 15 Catholic academies in the Diocese of Brooklyn that is considered to be an “embassy school.” Those are schools that receive funding from the diocese for scholarships and to help pay for some
“It means it gives the opportunity for children in our parish to come, where parents might be struggling with the full tuition,” explained Father Richard Beuther, the pastor of St. Bartholomew Parish.
It’s also a way for the parish to give back to its immigrant community, made up mostly of Filipinos, Ecuadorians and Mexicans. School officials meet with parents to assess their financial needs, and then perhaps grant scholarships ranging from $300 to $1,500 depending on the family’s situation. Tuition at St. Bart’s is $4,450.
Parents’ desire to send their children to a Catholic school isn’t just about academics, Denise Gonzalez, principal of St. Bart’s, said. “When we ask our parents — ‘What do you want for your child?’ — they want a school where they could learn, but also be rooted in their faith,” she said.
Funding for embassy schools is also used to pay for classroom programs like robotics, art and technology. Eighth-grader Brayden Castro is one of the students on the St. Bartholomew robotics team, and wants to be an engineer when he grows up.
“I want to try to add something to the world and try to make the world a better place,” he said.