The Education Imperative is a call to action: Education is not only a moral priority but also an urgent imperative to ensure a bright and secure American future.
One out of four children in the United States are Hispanic and they are the fastest growing school-age population. This makes the education of Hispanic students a national imperative. Crimsonbridge launched the Education Imperative to improve educational access, outcomes, and graduation rates in our country. The Education Imperative takes a whole-community approach to increase student enrollment and Hispanic family engagement in Catholic schools through innovative linguistic, cultural, and professional development strategies, collaboration with key partners and stakeholders, and tuition assistance.
HISPANIC FAMILIES AND CATHOLIC EDUCATION
Why Catholic education? Hispanics are a significant community in the Catholic Church and 60% of Catholics under the age of 18 identify as Hispanic. Today, only 16.8% of students who attend Catholic schools are Hispanic. Latino students who attend Catholic schools have higher high school and college graduation rates than the national average. Studies show that factors such as cultural competency, language access, intentional marketing, and leadership participation all contribute to increasing Hispanic enrollment. Parents and families are key to any solution. Creating and strengthening opportunities for Hispanic families and Catholic schools to work together has tremendous potential to educate and prepare thousands of American children for successful futures and helps Catholic schools thrive. Working in partnership with principals, teachers, pastors, families, and students, the Education Imperative’s multi-pronged strategy invests in leadership, enhances organizational capacity, and makes tuition assistance available for families.
Studies show that school leadership engagement is critical to building a school culture that is welcoming and meets the needs of all students. There is a correlation between school leadership that is informed, engaged, and culturally competent, and greater enrollment and retention. Investing in Catholic school leadership is a key part of Crimsonbridge Foundation’s multi-pronged strategy. What began as a partnership between Crimsonbridge, the Archdiocese of Washington, and the University of Notre Dame’s Latino Enrollment Institute to provide training for the principals, pastors, and staff of over 50 Catholic schools in the Greater Washington region, has since expanded to include principal mentorship programs and cultural competency trainings. These professional development opportunities focus on fostering a welcoming school environment, increasing Hispanic enrollment, and engaging families. In 2020, Crimsonbridge Foundation added another strategic prong to the Education Imperative, which explores increasing the representation of Latino leaders in Catholic education.
Navigating the landscape of educational opportunities can be a complex and difficult process for parents. This challenge is amplified for parents with limited English proficiency, particularly when school information is available only in English. Schools that develop inclusive language strategies are more welcoming. Crimsonbridge Foundation partners at the school and diocesan level to support strategic Spanish and bilingual communications capacity building. Through this partnership, the Archdiocese of Washington has developed extensive new Spanish-language communications resources, hired the Catholic Schools Office’s first full-time, bilingual Hispanic Enrollment Coordinator, and established a Latino parent ambassador group that employs grassroots recruitment and mentoring approaches to engage new parents. Through its Bridges for Schools program, the Foundation works directly with Catholic schools to expand Spanish-language marketing and communications resources, promote engagement and participation of Hispanic families, and build inclusive and welcoming school communities.
The common misconception that financial need is the primary barrier to Hispanic enrollment and retention in Catholic schools often leads to one-sided approaches and less than optimal results. The Crimsonbridge Foundation created the Education Imperative Fund to provide tuition assistance as one piece of a holistic approach to make a quality education available to all students. Crimsonbridge partners with the Latino Student Fund (LSF), a regional nonprofit, to increase the availability of partial scholarships for new students to attend Catholic schools in the Greater Washington region. Because tuition assistance is not a stand-alone strategy, schools must demonstrate they are making systemic improvements towards increasing enrollment and engaging Hispanic students and their families in order to qualify. LSF assists families with the application and enrollment process, provides robust academic support and college preparation services to the students, and hosts bilingual workshops for families.
“The vibrant Hispanic presence in the US Catholic Church continues to grow steadily, bringing life to our parishes across the nation. Today, we are called to bring this thriving presence to our Catholic Schools, by increasing representation of Hispanic students in our classrooms. In the Archdiocese of Washington we are delighted to partner with the Crimsonbridge Foundation, as we continue to build inclusive schools in our region. ”
The Most Reverend Mario E. Dorsonville, Auxiliary Bishop of Washington