PROSPECT HEIGHTS — The Tablet’s “COVID Relief Fundraiser for Catholic Schools” is back for its second year to offer school students an extra credit assignment that can earn them cash for tuition and raise funds for their schools in the Diocese of Brooklyn.
This year’s fundraiser kicked off on Monday, March 21, and runs through Friday, April 29. Over the next month, 37 participating schools will compete to sell the most subscriptions or renewals to The Tablet.
Seventy-five percent of funds raised will be distributed to the students and their schools. And this year, for the first time, a special category will reward students from five participating high schools who sell the most subscriptions.
Vito Formica, the Executive Director of News Content and Development at DeSales Media Group, the ministry that produces The Tablet and runs the fundraiser, said the program was designed with great incentives for maximum impact during a time of need.
“We could not have been happier with how last year’s fundraiser turned out,” he said. “We know that students across the diocese can do even better this year in helping to support not only their schools but Catholic journalism as well.”
To help them succeed, participating students were issued a package of materials they can use to sell the benefits of subscribing ($20 for one year) to friends, family, and neighbors.
DeSales Media created custom websites for each school so their students can simply share a link with prospective customers to subscribe. Readers can sign up online using a credit card and enter the student’s name for credit. If they wish, they can also pay by check using a printed form provided by the student.
Subscribers will receive The Tablet, the Diocese of Brooklyn’s newspaper which has been in print since 1908. Included are Nuestra Voz, the Spanish-language monthly newspaper, and Tablet Jr, a supplement produced by and for the diocese students.
Last year, over 1,500 Tablet subscriptions were sold during the month-long campaign, which resulted in nearly $40,000 going back into students’ and schools’ pockets. The extra funds were to help cover the costs of tuition and the hardships schools were, and still are, experiencing due to the unexpected expenses associated with COVID guidelines.
After selling 48 subscriptions to family members, St. Athanasius fifth-grader Noelle Pianoforte took home the $3,000 grand prize.
“I thought it was a dream, so I had to pinch myself like 15 times,” Pianoforte said.
Pianoforte said that she planned to set aside a portion of her prize for her future at St. Athanasius Catholic Academy.
“First off, I’m going to help my parents [with] my tuition,” Pianoforte explained.
St. Elizabeth Catholic Academy eighth-grader Jias Jordan, who now attends Archbishop Molloy High School, was named the second-place winner and awarded $2,000.
Not only did he sell 40 subscriptions, but Jordan also won a month’s tuition, worth more than $400. St. Elizabeth Catholic Academy Principal Jeanne Shannon said she offered the discounted tuition as an extra, school-wide incentive for students to participate in the fundraiser.
Santiago Diniz, a third-grader at St. Sebastian Catholic Academy, walked away with $1,000 after selling 22 subscriptions. His mother had filmed him giving an elevator pitch, explaining what The Tablet was and how subscriptions could benefit those who pay local Catholic school tuition or have made pandemic-related purchases in schools.
In another category based on school enrollment size, St. Francis de Sales Catholic Academy in Belle Harbor and St. Stanislaus Kostka in Greenpoint each racked up the most orders. St. Francis de Sales and St. Stanislaus Kostka, which sold 262 and 61 orders respectively, have also won $3,000 grand prizes.
Msgr. David Cassato, vicar for Catholic schools and pastor of St. Athanasius-St. Dominic Church, was blown away by the students’ passion for the campaign.
“It was a really great experience to see all these schools coming together to create better communication with people in the diocese [and] with The Tablet,” Msgr. Cassato said.
“The Tablet is a great tool of evangelization,” he added. “It’s a good chance for them to deepen their faith and to get more involved in church.”
Msgr. Cassato is encouraging schools and students to push themselves to surpass last year’s numbers. “This year’s campaign will be bigger and better than ever,” he said.
Bill Maier, CEO of DeSales Media Group, said DeSales also works closely with the schools office in other areas of communications including marketing and advertising campaigns, and this fundraiser is just another way that highlights that relationship.
“Catholic education is making a strong comeback as more and more parents are seeing its value,” he said. “The success of this fundraiser showed us all the vibrance of the school community in the diocese.”