The Catholic Education Foundation (CEF) is committed to providing tuition assistance to the most financially deserving students attending Catholic school within the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
CEF was founded 27 years ago and has shaped the lives of over 156,000 students, providing over $162 million of tuition assistance. CEF’s Tuition Award Program (TAP) recipients have told us time and time again that support from CEF has literally changed their lives. One such success story is Jennifer’s.
When asked to describe herself, Jennifer, a recent graduate of Pomona Catholic High School and a four-year CEF TAP recipient, humbly starts by sharing her family’s story. Jennifer is the youngest of three girls born to immigrant parents from Ecuador.
She and her sisters grew up in Ontario, where their parents instilled in them a love of learning. Jennifer points to her mother as her biggest influence when it comes to her education.
Growing up in Ecuador, both Jennifer’s mother and father left school after sixth grade. Even though her mother was unable to continue her education, she dreamed of becoming an electrical engineer.
However, her family told her time and time again that woman shouldn’t study mathematics. Daring to prove her family wrong, Gladys supported Jennifer’s interests in math and engineering. As a little girl, Jennifer loved to sketch building designs in her notebook.
Unlike most girls growing up, she was more interested in Legos and shows such as “Property Brothers” than anything else. When her mother walked Jennifer to school each day she would tell her, “Never let anyone tell you you can’t.”
The opportunities available at a small, all-girls Catholic school like Pomona Catholic High School provided Jennifer with a very unique high school experience. She points to the strong relationships with her teachers as a very important factor in her academic success.
Pomona Catholic High School also supported her goal of being a leader. When Jennifer went to her advisor freshman year saying she wanted to start a tutoring club, she was met with nothing but encouragement.
By the start of her sophomore year, the Pacers Step-Up Program was official and Jennifer was arranging upperclassmen tutors for freshmen, sophomores and local middle school students. The tutoring program continued to expand, eventually including international students.
“My biggest worry in applying to college was limited resources,” says Jennifer. While there are many benefits of being at a small school, she was worried about not having as many Advanced Placement (AP) courses as her public school peers.
When she brought this concern up to her teachers, Jennifer was once again met with great encouragement. If she could get enough students to register for AP Physics and AP BC Calculus, Pomona Catholic High School promised to offer the courses.
Today, Jennifer is proud to have both courses on her transcript and believes the process not only strengthened her college applications but better prepared her for higher education.
“It’s a very important life skill to be able to do the best with what you have,” she says. “CEF has been a part of my family’s life since my oldest sister was at Pomona Catholic High School. Education has always been dependent on scholarships in my family … CEF has been able to take such a burden off my parents.”
She says CEF made her education possible and opened a lot of doors.
“I knew, seeing my sisters being so successful at Pomona Catholic High School, that I wanted that as well,” she points out. One of her sisters graduated from University of California, Riverside and the other is currently pursuing her doctorate degree at Vanderbilt University after graduating from the University of San Diego.
After being accepted at Dartmouth, Notre Dame, Santa Clara University, UC Berkeley, USC, USD and UCSD, Jennifer has decided to attend USC and pursue a degree in Civil Engineering. “CEF has made it possible for me to get accepted to these amazing schools,” she says.
Jennifer applied to CEF’s College Success Alumni Network, a program offered by CEF to assist first-generation college students transition to college and graduate school. This summer she plans on visiting her sister in Nashville and spending time with friends.
She hopes to meet her future roommate before classes start in the fall. After college, Jennifer plans to pursue a master’s degree in structural engineering and hopes to one day start a nonprofit that would benefit young women interested in math and science.
Learn more about the Catholic Education Foundation, visit cefdn.org.