Bright Futures Fund needs help to keep putting children through Catholic school

07/13/2014 6:00 PM

07/14/2014 10:34 AM

Replacing a decades-old boiler isn’t the mission of the Bright Futures Fund.

Helping families afford a Catholic education is its calling. But school can’t open with the boiler broken at Holy Cross School in the Northeast area of Kansas City. So supporters have been putting the word out, trying to raise the estimated $300,000 to replace it.

A generous $100,000 challenge and other donations have pushed the total up to about $130,000 so far.

What organizers don’t want to do is cut into the fund’s normal functions, especially now, as Bright Futures is expanding to allow more families to keep their children in parochial schools through the 12th grade. That’s considered critical if families are ever to break the cycle of poverty. The average household income for the fund’s three elementary schools is $16,000, and 88 percent of students qualify for free or reduced-cost meals.

“We are on the front lines of poverty here,” said Jeremy Lillig, managing director of Bright Futures.

Students enrolled in the diocese’s urban schools tend to test at least two grade levels above their public school peers. About 86 percent are Catholic. But about 24 percent have special needs.

This is the 25th year that the diocese has helped with tuitions for poorer families.

Most people are more familiar with that effort’s original name, the Central City School Fund, and the now-deceased Bishop John J. Sullivan, who headed the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph when he organized the help for impoverished families in 1989.

The Central City School Fund originally supported students at eight city schools, but some have been consolidated or closed. It’s down to three now: Our Lady of the Angels near the Westport area, Our Lady of Guadalupe on the West Side and Holy Cross in the Northeast, educating 436 students last school year.

Now, an endowment gift has made the goal of offering K-12 tuition assistance feasible.

Richard and Olivia Mock, formerly of the Kansas City area but living in Phoenix at their deaths, donated $1.2 million. The money has been used to start a new program for students from the three elementary schools to apply for a high school scholarship. Last year, 10 students received the awards, attending St. Pius X and Archbishop O’Hara. And this year, another 10 students will also receive scholarships.

But there is still the need for the boiler before school restarts in the fall.

To reach Mary Sanchez, call 816-234-4752 or send email to msanchez@kcstar.com. Follow her at Twitter.com/msanchezcolumn.

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