WINDSOR TERRACE — This year, the annual Futures in Education Gala has officially gone virtual to help families keep their children in local parish schools and Catholic academies.
Most of the gala dinner — which most likely would’ve been held at Cipriani’s in Manhattan — was pre-recorded and later livestreamed online on Oct. 20. The hosts for the evening were Msgr. Jamie Gigantiello, director of the Office of Parish Giving and vicar for development in the Diocese of Brooklyn, and Msgr. David Cassato, vicar for Catholic schools in the diocese.
Futures in Education relies on this gala every fall to raise money for scholarships. Since 1989, the non-profit organization has provided over $108 million in tuition assistance, helping over 30,000 children. This year, the goal is to raise $2 million.
A Greater Need This Year
Due to the ongoing pandemic, there’s a bigger need for those funds. Many people lost their jobs and may still be out of work, putting a strain on the ability to pay for this year’s tuition. The recent weekly unemployment numbers in New York City are still six to 11 times higher than last year. According to The New York Times, food pantries in the City are also continuing to see long lines, with an estimated 1.5 million unable to afford food.
Additionally, more public school parents have been enrolling their children in Catholic schools, thanks to how smoothly the in-person and online learning models are going. In the last week of September alone, 274 new children enrolled in Catholic schools, according to Ted Havelka, director of Enrollment Management and Financial Assistance for the superintendent of schools.
“I continue to be proud of our Catholic schools and academies who have persevered through the challenges of COVID-19,” Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio said during his invocation on Oct. 20. “This has shown how strong our Catholic community truly is and how our students, parents, and faculty alike really believe in Catholic education. Futures in Education continues to provide opportunities for families so that their children can receive a Catholic education.”
The Importance of the Angel Program
Futures in Education’s “Angel” program is one facet that allows students to continue their education with financial assistance. Donors, also known as “Angels,” can correspond with the students receiving their help and receive progress reports to keep track of their student’s success. The donors also usually meet the students at an annual Angel Reception and visit their schools in person.
“The Angel program is very important and vital to all the families — not only here in our school, but throughout the diocese,” said Marcia Soria, principal of St. Brigid-St. Frances Cabrini Catholic Academy in Bushwick. “I think it’s very important for all children that come through Catholic school to receive the faith, to grow up knowing that they have something to lean on.”
Father Jorge Ortiz-Garay, the first priest in the United States to lose his life to COVID-19 in March, had been an angel to a handful of St. Brigid-St. Frances Cabrini students. Soria reflected on how he would always ask how his students were academically doing because he cared so much about them and their education. She also noted how Fr. Jorge’s presence is sorely and deeply missed within the parish and school.
For Chere Dyal, a parent of an Ss. Joachim and Anne School student, Futures in Education has tremendously helped her family. In 2017, Dyal was diagnosed with a degenerative disorder of the cornea, which forced her to stop working. She didn’t want her two children to leave Ss. Joachim and Anne because of the circumstances.
“I get very emotional because [Futures in Education] stepped in, and they helped. I never had to worry about pulling them out of school — they were still able to maintain their education,” Dyal said. “My angel donor has always provided. They come in, and they help you with whatever it is that you need. And I honestly believe that my children are going to do amazing because they attend here.”
How To Tune In and Support
Those looking to donate to the gala can visit www.futuresineducation.org or text “FIE20” to 76278. The online, silent auction is still open with popular items — like dinner for four at Rao’s or a signed Kansas City Chiefs helmet by quarterback Patrick Mahomes — available for bidding.
The gala will reair on NET-TV (Spectrum channel 97, Optimum channel 30, and Verizon Fios channel 48) on October 21 at 7:30 p.m., October 24 at 9:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m., and October 25 at 3:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.