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Bridge Educational Foundation grants tuition aid

A Lower Moyamensing school hosted a scholarship event that will benefit six local institutions.

By Joseph Myers
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Nov. 1, 2012

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Our Lady of Hope Regional Catholic School students prepared signs to thank their many beneficiaries.

Photo by Greg Bezanis

“My family and I are extremely grateful,” eighth-grader Morgan McLaurin said Oct. 24 at Our Lady of Hope Regional Catholic School, 1248 Jackson St. “Without this assistance, I’m not sure what we would have done.”

The resident of 11th and Christian streets is enjoying her final year of elementary school thanks to great friends and monetary help from the Harrisburg-based Bridge Educational Foundation. Her allies, initiative officials and politicians united at her Lower Moyamensing institution to celebrate the distribution of $98,416 in scholarships to local learners.

Along with Morgan and other Our Lady of Hope enrollees, pupils from Calvary Temple Christian Academy, 3301 S. 20th St.; Ss. Neumann-Goretti High School, 1736 S. 10th St.; St. Anthony of Padua Regional Catholic School, 913 Pierce St.; St. Gabriel School, 2917 Dickinson St.; and St. Monica, 16th and Porter streets, will find their families’ financial fears alleviated and appreciated elevated.

Bridge assists 55 of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties and has helped South Philly households since its 2005 inception. Executive Director Natalie Nutt estimated her organization’s involvement with philanthropic entities participating in the commonwealth’s Educational Improvement Tax Credit program has endowed local clans with $700,000. For Morgan, receiving aid for the first time, and classmates Matt Gorman and Ryan Hewitt, both benefiting for the third instance, every penny comes as a blessing.

“The help has made it much easier to get a great education,” Matt, of Third and Ritner streets, said.

The teenager just completed his second month at Our Lady of Hope, formerly Epiphany of Our Lord School, following the Archdiocese of Philadelphia-appointed Blue Ribbon Commission’s fusion of his prior site, Our Lady of Mount Carmel School, 2329 S. Third St., and Sacred Heart of Jesus School, 1329 E. Moyamensing Ave., with his new educational home. His brother, Joey Gorman, a recent graduate of Neumann-Goretti and a freshman at St. Joseph’s University, also acquired relief during his local scholastic tenure, a fact that has granted their parents a break on roughly one-third of the South Philly schools’ tuitions.

“Our average scholarship is around $1,000,” Nutt, whose employer has issued $17 million in support to families who enroll their offspring in tuition-based facilities, said. “We have been able to appropriate such a great amount through dedicated individuals who realize what a solid education they are helping others to achieve.”

The commonwealth has overseen the tax credit program for 11 years and has $100 million to provide during this fiscal year. Income guidelines determine eligibility, with distribution beginning immediately after approval. That the benevolence goes toward independent and private school pupils, too, appeals to Matt, who, in addition to pondering attending St. Joseph’s Preparatory School, another designee last week, is considering matriculating at William Penn Charter School.

“For those of you gathered here, it might take some time to understand the importance of today,” Bridge official Joseph Gerdes said. “However, your experiences will soon help you to learn the value of educational dollars.”

Ryan already has mastered that lesson. A member of a sizeable family with a deep parochial presence in South Philly, the former Sacred Heart attendee understands sacrifices and admires how faithfully influential companies and elected officials have enabled his schooling to continue.

“Bridge has been such a plus,” the resident of Third and Wolf streets said. “It has allowed me to thrive in my two schools, and I’m happy my family might be able to use it again when I go to high school.”

 

While Ryan and his peers are only months away from cracking open books in new classrooms, the school’s second-graders have years to go before they part with Principal Patricia Cody. The excited youngsters kicked off the afternoon by performing two songs acknowledging their gratitude for their lives and opportunities, with three equally appreciative mothers then commending Bridge’s colleagues for their altruism.

“We could be here all day thanking you for your goodness,” Cody said before the guests spoke to their beneficiaries.

Instrumental in facilitating funds’ acquisition, state Sen. Larry Farnese fondly recalled his Delaware County-centered Catholic schooling and stressed maximizing each school day’s possibilities.

“I come from a family of educators, so I fully believe in accepting the responsibility of learning lessons and putting them to great use,” he said. “I want for you to be able to do whatever you wish to do in life.”

“What a year it has been in local Catholic education,” state Rep. Bill Keller added, touching on consolidations that trimmed South Philly’s parochial sites from 10 to six.

The 184th District figure, a 1968 graduate of Bishop Neumann High School, formerly 2600 Moore St., also attended Our Lady of Mount Carmel and divulged that he keeps a picture of his first-grade class in his local office, 1531 S. Second St.

“Though I was sad to see my elementary school close, I’m excited that the former students who now come to Our Lady of Hope will be able to reach for their dreams,” Keller said.

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