Bill Goetz, a CSX Corp. vice president, recalled a time not too long ago when Catholic and private schools were seen as institutions that would be open forever.
“Nowadays, that just isn’t true,” he said.
Goetz was recently at Little Flower High School as the Bridge Educational Foundation distributed $144,445 in scholarship money to local schools, many of which are struggling to maintain enrollment at a time of high tuition, changing neighborhoods and free charter schools.
The money was made possible by the state Educational Improvement Tax Credit.
Businesses receive a tax credit for donating to a non-profit scholarship organization, such as the Harrisburg-based Bridge Educational Foundation, which has handed out $17 million in scholarships in 55 of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties since it was founded in 2005.
Joe Gerdes, a Bridge founder, described the foundation as a “bridge” to a successful private-public partnership.
During an Oct. 24 event at Little Flower, the following companies were represented: Aegis Security Insurance, CSX Corporation, Enterprise Holdings, Penn Jersey Paper, UnitedHealthcare Community Plan and Waste Management.
The schools will distribute the scholarship money to income-eligible families.
“I wish we could double it,” said Bobby Keyes, vice president and general manager of Enterprise Holdings in Southeastern Pennsylvania.
The following schools received the money: Little Flower, Archbishop Ryan, Father Judge and St. Hubert high schools; Christ the King, Holy Innocents, Maternity BVM, Mother of Divine Grace, Our Mother of Sorrows/St. Ignatius, Resurrection of Our Lord, St. Anselm, St. Cecilia, St. Christopher, St. Dominic, St. Martin of Tours, St. Matthews and Nazareth Academy elementary schools; Politz Hebrew Academy; Greene Street Friends School; and Timothy Academy.
Keyes, whose mother is a Little Flower graduate, is a graduate of St. Matthew in Mayfair. He and his brother attended Father Judge. His three sisters went to St. Hubert.
He urged the students in attendance to refrain from drinking, doing drugs and texting or talking on the phone while driving, adding that they also thank their parents for sending them to a private school.
“We need to honor those sacrifices,” he said.
The four elected officials on hand all attended Catholic schools: State Reps. John Taylor (St. Hugh of Cluny, North Catholic), John Sabatina Jr. (Resurrection, Father Judge) and Kevin Boyle (St. Helena, Cardinal Dougherty) and state Sen. Tina Tartaglione (St. Martin of Tours, St. Basil).
Taylor, whose two alma maters have closed because of declining enrollment, said he hopes that every child who wants a Catholic education can afford to have one.
The lawmaker described Bridge as an EITC pioneer that uses aggressive and innovative approaches to raise money. He credited the host, Little Flower president Sister Donna Shallo, with keeping her school flourishing.
“If Sister Donna was in charge of North Catholic, it would still be there,” he said.
School officials were ecstatic at the donated funds.
Sister Shaun Thomas Callahan, principal at St. Dominic, clutched an envelope with a $5,000 check from CSX, a transportation company.
“We’ve helped five families,” she said. “In this economy, that makes all the difference in the world.”
Sister Donna said two Little Flower students will benefit from a donation by Enterprise. She said scholarship money is invaluable in attracting students to enroll.
“When parents budget their money, it certainly is a deciding factor,” she said. “It’s great that we have this money at our disposal.” ••
Reporter Tom Waring can be reached at 215-354-3034 or email@example.com