CEF honors supporters’ commitment to changing lives, bringing hope to youth and families.

A quarter-century of giving was recognized at the Catholic Education Foundation’s donor appreciation luncheon last week, where longtime donors were called “angels” for their financial assistance enabling low-income children to attend Catholic schools. 

“Without the donors, there would be no CEF,” said Thomas Barron, president of CEF’s board of trustees at the Feb. 29 event held at the Cathedral Conference Center. “It is especially important for us to recognize all of you, individuals and companies who have given so freely of your time, talent and treasure to the Catholic Education Foundation,” established by Cardinal Roger Mahony as a charitable trust in 1987.

Barron acknowledged the presence of 20-, 15- and 10-year donors as well as founding donors and Legacy Society members. All the guests received green lapel pins of CEF’s oak tree sapling symbol which Barron told them to “wear with pride.”

Guest speaker Amado Carino, a 2008 graduate of UC San Diego who attended Cathedral High School and St. Turibius School in Los Angeles as a student CEF recipient, said his parents would not have been able to send their five children to Catholic schools without the tuition assistance provided by CEF.   

“If I had not attended high school where the norm was to apply and go to college, who knows if I would have attended college and obtained a bachelor’s degree in structural engineering?” commented Carino, an employed structural engineer who recently bought a home that he shares with his parents, two sisters and younger brother. 

“The Catholic Education Foundation has helped my family in more ways than I can possibly imagine,” said Carino. “On behalf of every family that has been assisted by the foundation, I want to thank all the donors and all the wonderful people who make CEF a possibility. You are all angels on earth.”

In his keynote address following Carino’s talk, Archbishop José Gomez said that he has felt for a long time that people should be studying the “amazing” accomplishments of Catholic schools as part of a national conversation about education reform. 

“Each one of you in this room today is responsible for one of the great educational success stories in our country,” said Archbishop Gomez. “Through your gifts to the Catholic Education Foundation, through your continued advocacy for excellence in Catholic education, you are a part of something very special here.” 

He noted that nearly 100 percent of CEF students graduate from Catholic high school in a region where the dropout rate in public schools is between 50 and 60 percent. Over the past quarter-century, he said, CEF has awarded $120 million in tuition grants to help almost 120,000 low-income students and their families.

“All of these people are being given hope and a chance to think about new possibilities for their lives,” said the archbishop. “You are making a huge difference in people’s lives --- and in the life of our community in Los Angeles.”

He asked that donors continue to support CEF with their financial gifts and prayers and to “become even more enthusiastic messengers” of the foundation’s mission. 

“Tell [people] we are changing lives and bringing hope to the thousands of young people and their families,” said Archbishop Gomez. “Tell them that we are building a model of how our city and country can meet the challenges of providing high-quality educations to low-income, minority and immigrant students.”

“It’s obvious that CEF works,” said Kevin Dretzka, a 15-year donor and CEF trustee. “You take a look at the graduation success rates and the schooling successes through college. There’s nothing like it in the city --- the public schools, the charters, even private schools do not have this success, especially with this demographic of the very poor who have no other choices.” He added that CEF’s partial scholarships mean that families partner financially in their children’s education, even those families making less than $25,000 annually. 

“It’s the best investment we can make in any non-profit charity; it’s investing in our kids,” said Mark Sullivan, a member of CEF’s development committee. “What we do, in comparison to other schools, we get much better performance at less of a cost. From a businessman’s perspective, it’s money well spent.”

Michael Mulcahy, president of the LaSallian Education Fund which donated 50 cases of wine from its Mont LaSalle Vineyard to fund wait-listed CEF students at Cathedral High School (a LaSallian school), said CEF’s mission is “tremendous. I think it’s a very well-run organization [where] the dollars go to the right place and I’m very honored to be associated with it.”

Susan Stephenson, a 12-year CEF donor from Incarnation Church in Glendale, said she began donating in memory of her mother, a widow who sent her three children to Catholic schools at great personal sacrifice. 

“I believe in CEF because I have seen and heard the children and the parents benefitting from CEF’s work,” said Stephenson. “There’s nothing more important than educating minds for Catholics and for the American future.”

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