Adopt-a-Student program helps donors ‘put a face’ to the impact of their gifts

Moira Cullings

As a child of eight who grew up in a lower income neighborhood in St. Louis, Joe Schmid understands how a Catholic education can open the door to greater opportunities.

“Even though money was tight, my parents felt it was important to provide us with a Catholic education,” said Schmid. “I believe that the Catholic education I received and the morals instilled in me at these schools are a big factor in my successes in life.”

Schmid and his wife, Becky, wanted to give to children in a similar situation, so they became sponsors for Adopt-a-Student, a Seeds of Hope program that pairs each donor with a student from an archdiocesan kindergarten through eighth grade school.

“There are many great charities and programs out there,” said Schmid. “This one called to me given the importance that a Catholic education played in my life.”

The program currently offers scholarships to students from the 10 schools Seeds of Hope serves.

I believe that the Catholic education I received and the morals instilled in me at these schools are a big factor in my successes in life.”

“The students with the greatest need are usually Adopt-a-Students because it’s the biggest scholarship that we offer,” said Jay Clark, Executive Director of Seeds of Hope.

The organization reviews applications for the scholarships to find the kids most in need, and it works with principals to make sure they’ve found the best matches. Students are also chosen based on parent involvement and commitment to their child’s education.

Although the scholarship is the largest offered by any Seeds of Hope Program, many donors are drawn to Adopt-a-Student and stick with their students through eighth grade because of the personal connection they feel.

Students send their donor a letter at the beginning of the school year introducing themselves and a thank you letter during the holidays. Teachers send donors a report of the students’ academic, spiritual and social growth at the end of the year. In the past, donors have also had the opportunity to meet with their student once during the year.

“That’s one of the cool parts about it — it really connects the donor directly with the student,” said Clark.

For donors like Schmid, those opportunities make the giving experience unique.

“It certainly increases my sense of satisfaction regarding our gifts,” said Schmid. “While not a primary reason for contributing, it is nice to ‘put a face’ on the money we are donating. Visiting the schools and the kids we are sponsoring lets us know that our donations are being used as we intended.”

The Schmid family began supporting students during the 2013-2014 school year. During the 2015-2016 school year, they began sponsoring two students, which they have continued to do ever since. This year, their students will be in first and sixth grades.

Adopt-a-Student “is very popular from the retention level we have,” said Clark. “We usually have at least 75 or 80 percent retention rate with the donors. I think it all goes back to that connection.

“After two or three years, the donors feel very invested in the kids,” he said. “It is definitely one of our more popular programs.”

And the need for continued support is there.

The average income of a family of four who receives the Adopt-a-Student scholarship is around $34,000, said Clark. But at the same time, those families are hard-working and involved in their children’s education.

“They’re invested, and they’re making tremendous sacrifices to send their kids to Catholic schools because they believe in the faith-based curriculum,” said Clark.

After two or three years, the donors feel very invested in the kids. It is definitely one of our more popular programs.”

“These folks who are in tough financial situations believe so much in the education that they’re willing to make that sacrifice.”

Although the program is flourishing with 100 adopted students this school year, Clark and his team have high hopes for the future.

“One thing we’ve learned in the process is there’s need all across the archdiocese,” said Clark. “I really hope that we can expand this program so that when somebody is in a community outside of the Greater Denver area, they can support a student in their own community, because the need is there.”

Schmid’s hope for the students he supports is that they receive the same benefits from their education that he did.

“Ultimately, I hope the education they receive and values they develop allow them to live meaningful and productive lives, and that one day, when their situation allows, they ‘pay it forward’ and try to make things better for others less fortunate,” he said.

To learn more, contact info@seedsofhopedenver.org or call (303) 715-3127.

COMING UP: Five Colorado places named after Catholic saints

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On Aug. 1, Colorado will have made it way over the hill at a ripe 144 years old. Better known as Colorado Day, the day commemorates the founding of our great Centennial State in 1876.

The Catholic Church has a rich history in Colorado, and believe it or not, various regions, geographic landmarks and places in the state are named after Catholic saints. The San Juan Mountain Range, the San Miguel River and the San Luis Valley are but a few examples.

In honor of Colorado Day, here are five places within “Colorful Colorado” that take their namesake from a Catholic saint. You probably already know a couple of them, but the other three are real “diamonds in the rough” that are worth making the trek; in fact, two of them were built and founded before Colorado was even Colorado.

Mother Cabrini Shrine, Golden, CO

 

One of Colorado’s most popular pilgrimage sites, it’s hard not to be enamored by Mother Cabrini Shrine. Originally founded as a girls’ summer camp by St. Frances Cabrini in 1910, the shrine overlooks the I-70 corridor heading into the mountains and is as charming as it is relaxing. In addition to the praying in the chapel, visitors can stay in the old Stone House that was built in 1914 or one of the various retreat houses that have been added over the years. Aside from being a wonderful space to pray, Mother Cabrini Shrine doubles as a sort of natural Stairmaster to get those steps in with the 373-step staircase leading up to the shrine, affectionately known as the Stairway of Prayer.

St. Catherine of Siena Chapel, Allenspark, CO

Photo by Andrew Wright

Better known as the Chapel on the Rock, this functioning Catholic chapel is perhaps one of Colorado’s most iconic landmarks. As the story goes, in the early 20th century, a man by the name of William McPhee owned the land where the chapel stands, known as Camp St. Malo. McPhee was a parishioner of the Cathedral in Denver, and he often allowed the parish to take kids hiking and camping on his property. During one of those trips, several campers saw a meteorite or shooting star that had appeared to hit the earth. They went looking for it and came upon the Rock that now stands as the foundation of St. Catherine of Siena Chapel. Completed in 1936, the chapel’s official namesake is fitting, as both it and St. Catherine of Siena share a common thread of mystical experiences facilitated by the Lord. It has had many visitors over the years, but perhaps none so famous as St. John Paul II who, ever the outdoorsman, just had to make a stop while in Denver for World Youth Day in 1993.

Abbey of St. Walburga, Virginia Dale, CO

 

Photo courtesy of the Abbey of St. Walburga

Located in the picturesque Virginia Dale, a small community just south of the Wyoming border, the Abbey of St. Walburga is a place where the voice of the Lord lives in the mountains, plains and rivers surrounding it. Named for the patroness of the Benedictine nuns, the abbey was founded in 1935 when three sisters from the Abbey of St. Walburg in Eichstätt, Bavaria were sent to a remote farm in what was Boulder. There, they built a strong foundation for the future of the abbey through hard work, poverty and an immovable trust in God’s providence. Today, the Benedictine nuns of Walburga humbly carry out the good works of the Benedictine order and carry on the legacy started nearly a millennium ago in 1035, when the original Walburg abbey in Eichstätt was founded.

San Luis, CO

Photo by Jeremy Elliot

Moving into the southern most regions of the State of Colorado, the Catholic roots of the region become much more evident. The oldest town in Colorado, San Luis, was founded in 1851 on the Feast of St. Louis, and predates the official founding of Colorado as a state by 25 years. The town is located along the Sangre de Cristo mountain range, which translates to “Blood of Christ.” One of the main attractions of the small town of just over 600 is a shrine at the town’s local Catholic parish. The Shrine of the Stations of the Cross was built by the parishioners of Sangre de Cristo Parish and the beautiful stations were designed and sculpted by native San Luis sculptor Huberto Maesta.

Capilla de Viejo San Acacio, Costilla County, CO

Photo from Wikicommons

Just to the west of the town of San Luis lies one of Colorado’s oldest gems. The Chapel of Old St. Acacius, or Capilla de Viejo San Acacio as it’s known to the locals, is the oldest non-Native American religious site in Colorado that’s still active today. While the building of the church cannot be dated precisely, it was likely completed sometime in the 1860s. The namesake of the church comes from St. Acacius of Byzantium, a third century martyr. Near the church is the small village of San Acacio, which a local tradition holds got its name after one of the earliest San Luis Valley settlements, originally called Culebra Abajo, was attacked by a band of Ute in 1853. As the Ute attackers approached, the villagers asked for the intercession of St Acacius, a popular saint among their people. The Ute suddenly halted and fled before they reached the town, scared off by a vision of well-armed warriors defending it. In gratitude for this salvation, the village was renamed San Acacio, and the villagers built a mission church in honor of the saint.