We have once again passed through graduation season, the de facto start of summer. Catholic high schools in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles graduated approximately 6,000 students this spring: about 3,300 from 26 archdiocesan and parish high schools, and about 2,700 from the 25 private high schools.

The true stand-out numbers, however, are the total percentage of students graduating and the percentage who go on to pursue higher education. Studies done by the Los Angeles Catholic school system with Loyola Marymount University and others have shown that upwards of 98 percent of students graduated in 2016, and a similar percentage of those graduates are going on to higher studies.

“We’re very proud because those kinds of percentages are a huge differentiator for us,” said Kevin Baxter, senior director and superintendent of Catholic schools for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.  “You really don’t find those percentages in any other system.”

What’s just as important, according to Baxter, is how Catholic high schools prepared these students to be involved in shaping our culture through civic participation and through living and passing on their faith.

“Our Catholic schools don’t just focus on the intellect,” Baxter said. “We focus on faith, and also on students being good citizens and participatory human beings as adults in their community and in their parish. That is really significant because our world today really needs people who are committed to their communities, to giving back, to giving lives of service to others.”

Baxter believes that Catholic schools have also prepared these graduates to deal with secular culture as they go out into the world.

 “Catholic schools can provide a strong foundation for how you live in that society. Our society is very individualistic and with social media we’ve become more individualized than community driven,” Baxter said.

“Our Catholic schools try to instill in students that sense of, not just humility, but that we need to be participatory members of a parish and community,” he continued. “That it’s not just about what we can do for ourselves from an individual perspective, but how we can contribute back to our Church, to our parish, to our society. That ‘giving sense’ of who we are is something that our Catholic schools do a very good job of instilling in students.”

A 2014 study by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) backs that up. The study found that, “Catholic schools continue to be the Church’s most effective instruments for passing down the faith from one generation to the next, and its especially true for the millennial generation where individuals are eight times more likely to attend Mass one or more times a week than adults who did not attend a Catholic school.”

“Parents are really looking at Catholic schools as options because of the faith and I think that’s really significant,” said Baxter. “We want to be sure that they’re actually living lives of faith as well as being participatory in society and having good jobs.”

With affordability of quality Catholic education always an issue, Baxter noted efforts to increase the amount of tuition aid available to students. As parents try to figure out how to afford college education, helping graduates be able to continue their Catholic education in college is also an issue.

Baxter noted a new partnership with Marymount California University in Rancho Palos Verdes, which offers an automatic acceptance for most seniors graduating from Catholic high schools in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

“I know from conversations with a number of principals and administrators that many students have taken advantage of that and applied,” he said.

Baxter stated that archdiocesan Catholic schools are proud of the high-quality graduates coming out of the system. “We’re very, very proud of them,” he said. “We wish them well and know that they will continue to make us proud and we’re very excited for all of them.”