More than 600 dignitaries, donors, and guests gathered at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels Conference Center May 26 to welcome Archbishop Gomez at a dinner event hosted by CEF’s Board of Trustees in collaboration with the New America Alliance, an organization promoting the development of American Latino leaders in business, public service and philanthropy. “As a former public school teacher and college administrator, I know from personal experience that the Los Angeles Archdiocese’s Catholic schools offer a unique opportunity to the Latino community to achieve both academic and personal success,” said Frank Sanchez, CEF trustee and NAA founding member. He encouraged attendees to personally commit to helping CEF students, like guest speaker Anahi Esquivel, a senior at Sacred Heart High School in Lincoln Heights, who will attend Cal State University Northridge next year on a full scholarship.Esquivel — whose parents sacrificed many comforts to help pay for Catholic education for their children, including moving the family into a house shared with 11 other family members — said she is grateful for the values she received during her Catholic education made possible since the third grade by tuition assistance from CEF. “I am confident I can overcome any obstacle I am presented with,” said Esquivel, a self-described “expert in time management” whose daily commute to school required an hour-and-a-half trip on two buses. “To all of you who make Catholic education possible, not just for me but for many young students out there whose lives are also faced with challenges, thank you and God bless you.”“We should all be grateful to Cardinal Roger Mahony for establishing the Catholic Education Foundation 24 years ago,” said Archbishop Gomez. “It was a bold and visionary move.” He noted that CEF has distributed 110,000 tuition awards totaling more than $108 million over the years. CEF’s program budget of $8.1 million will fund 7,000 elementary and high school students in the next school year, although application requests for tuition assistance totaled 17,500, putting more than 10,000 on a wait list.“As chairman now,” the archbishop continued, “I want to continue this great work. I want to grow our Catholic school populations, to expand Catholic schools to new areas where they are needed, and to work closely with our trustees and community leaders to raise the money we need to help more students go to our schools.”He listed three basic priorities for the coming year. “The first is to continue to strengthen the Catholic values of faith, family, friendship and community service that we communicate in our schools.” For his second priority, “I want us to help better integrate our brothers and sisters who are immigrants into our parish elementary schools.“…We know that Latino immigrants, especially, come to live in neighborhoods that are poor. The Catholic schools there are poor, too. So, we need to find a way to help them. We can’t miss this chance to educate the next generation of Californians.” His third priority, Archbishop Gomez continued, is increasing access to Catholic education.“Every child — even if he or she is poor — deserves the opportunity to learn in an atmosphere that promotes excellence and values. No child should be turned away just because a family is poor,” said the archbishop.“What if we made it our goal to raise enough money in the next year to give all of these [10,000 children on CEF’s wait list] the chance for a Catholic education? Of course,” he added, “this is not a one-year commitment. We want them to receive the full benefit of a Catholic education — from elementary school to high school.“That takes money; a lot of it. And it takes a sustained commitment over many years on our part. So we need to reach out to more of our brothers and sisters. We need to ask more of them to join us in this great mission.“I am proud to be your friend and co-worker in this effort, my brothers and sisters. …We are going to do beautiful things together with the help of God! Together we can change the lives of thousands of families. And through them, we can transform our city and our country.” “A CEF tuition award is not a ‘hand-out,’ it’s a ‘hand-up,’ and that’s a huge difference,” said Kathy Anderson, executive director of CEF. She noted that the 17,500 applications received by CEF exceed the number of applications for admissions sent to many colleges.“We read and process every single application, and we know these stories, and we know we have to find a way to help” these CEF families averaging an annual income of $24,000 a year for a family of four, said Anderson, noting that it takes $1,000 to sponsor an elementary student and $2,000 to sponsor a high school student. “We are hopeful that these guests tonight will become donors because they have seen the miracle of what happens [in hearing CEF recipient] Anahi Esquivel,” Anderson told The Tidings at the conclusion of the event. Dominican Sister of Mission San Jose Janice Wellington, co-principal at Sacred Heart High School, said Esquivel’s story is typical of many of the CEF recipients, who are so appreciative for what they have received.“They really know that, without the support, they could never be where they’re at,” said Sister Wellington. “And that’s the part that gives us, in the schools at least, such a great sense of gratitude, because there’s no way we could do this work without the support of these wonderful people.” She added that she was heartened to hear the archbishop say that people have to reach out to the next generation of immigrants, because “that’s where our church is in this archdiocese.”Mark Hurst, CEF trustee, was also impressed by the archbishop’s comments. “I love the fact that he challenged the entire community of Southern California to raise the money for these 10,000 kids on the waiting list,” said Hurst. “It’s a moral imperative.”{gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2011/0603/cef/{/gallery}