By Dr. Samuel Torres
The wisdom of hindsight has touched many who struggled or experienced loss when our world changed in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As our priorities shifted from safety to work and education, organizations were moved to address situations of need. In the academic realm we learned that so many children suffered from a differing delivery of curriculum and that homes in underserved communities could not provide the academic support required for online learning.
Our history tells us that students exposed to minimal home support thrive when nurtured in our Catholic school communities. Due to the circumstances resulting from lockdown, many low performing learners fell even further behind. Understanding individual student needs is key, as is seeking ways (inside and outside the school community) to help them, both in that moment and in the future. Catholic schools overall did very well in maintaining academic standards throughout these past few years and have few gaps to address. There are, however, schools in these marginalized economic regions where extra support would make a world of difference.
Our diocese has always been blessed over the years by many advocates and supporters of our students. Recently, I was encouraged to apply for a grant from the Hilton Foundation. The grant addresses tutoring for struggling learners, while featuring elements of social and emotional counseling, as well as financial assistance for the marginalized and underrepresented. After months of preparation, we submitted the grant application and shortly thereafter, we were awarded a $500,000 grant for five schools to support students over a two-year period.
My heart is full of gratitude for the Hilton grant and for the staff that work so diligently to help our students improve achievement. We know that our campuses are designed to support the spiritual, social and emotional wellbeing of all learners; but with this grant, staff will be targeting the most vulnerable among them to increase confidence in learning through a variety of additional strategies. I am very proud to belong to the vision that all children deserve our best.
The legacy of a Catholic education is more than the knowledge imparted to our students. It is the development of a profound and enduring sense of faith, the realization of the value of moral character and the encouragement of a life-long journey.
Thanks to the Hilton Foundation, more students will have access to methods and relationships that will encourage growth and stability for today and tomorrow.
Dr. Samuel Torres is Superintendent of Catholic Schools in the Diocese of San Bernardino.