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ACE works to increase enrollment

Molly Madden | Friday, January 15, 2010

A University of Notre Dame task force recently announced its plan to provide educational opportunities for Latino children by doubling the enrollment of Latino children in Catholic schools over the next decade.

The Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) and the Institute for Latino Studies has recently announced its new national campaign “The Catholic School Advantage” which seeks to enroll one million Latino students in Catholic elementary schools and high schools by 2020.

The task force was established over a year ago and the group’s report, “To Nurture the Soul of a Nation: Latino Families, Catholic Schools, and Educational Opportunity,” was released this year on the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Both ACE and the Institute for Latino Studies are collaborating with more than 50 groups to try and both provide educational opportunities to the Latino community in the United States, as well as striving to keep American Catholic schools open.

“One of the reasons ACE is focused on strengthening and sustaining Catholic schools is because Catholic education has been proven to be an advantage to minorities,” said Fr. Timothy Scully, the chairman of ACE and a member of the task force. “One way of addressing inequality in this country is by strengthening Catholic schools.”

According to the report, Latinos in Catholic schools are 42 percent more likely to graduate high school and are 2.5 times more likely to graduate college. The task force has also found that nearly 70 percent of all practicing Catholics under the age of 35 are Latinos, but only 3 percent of Latinos send their children to Catholic schools.

The campaign officials believe more Latinos are not enrolled in Catholic education because schools currently aren’t meeting the needs of the Latino community.

“Our Catholic schools right now are not what you would call culturally responsive,” Fr. Joseph Corpora, the director of the campaign said. “The schools just aren’t prepared for these Latino students because the educational model doesn’t work for the Latinos.”

Juan Carlos Guzman, the director of research for the Institute for Latino Studies and a member of the task force said that the present schools aren’t meeting the needs of the Latino students because the structure of education in the United States is made for a homogeneous population, something that is not true with Latinos.

“Different groups of Latinos are different from each other,” Guzman said. “What is key for increasing their access to education is to see what they need. The whole structure of Catholic schools in the United States have to recognize the importance of reaching out to Latinos; the Latinos have to feel invited.”

Doing little things to make the schools seem more accessible and welcoming to the Latino population can extend this invitation. Such things that were suggested as baby steps included having a Spanish-speaking secretary, translating texts into Spanish and changing the décor of the school to include some Latino touches that are specific to the different groups that are attending the school.

“These actions may seem small but they can make a big difference by providing a greater sense of ownership for the Latinos,” Scully said. “If we want to provide greater access to the Latino children then we are going to have to provide a sense of ownership of the Catholic schools.”

Scully said they task force feels that the whole campaign is an issue of social justice and the University of Notre Dame is the most capable Catholic school in the country to carry out the campaign and succeed.

“Notre Dame’s mission is about helping the community and making everybody’s life better,” Guzman said. “The Latino community is a group that is in great need in this area.”
Corpora said he views the task force as a great combination between social justice and service to the Church.

“Through this campaign, we can provide education to hundreds of thousands of children and our Catholic schools get to stay open,” he said. “Our motivation is not self-serving; people deserve the chance to obtain this education.”