Catholic Foundation distributes $229,863 to schools, parishes

During the summer of 2017, the Catholic Foundation for the Diocese of St. Cloud has distributed grants totaling $229,863 to schools and parishes, said Alice Coudron, the foundation’s consultant for planned giving.

“It was exciting to read their applications and feel the energy of the year starting up, knowing these funds are doing even more than what we hoped would happen,” Coudron said. “We see wonderful things in our schools and parishes.”

The Living the Promise fund provided $93,446 in grants to schools in two distributions. It distributed an additional $93,502 to parishes for youth and adult faith formation initiatives — a total of $186,948.

All Catholic schools in the diocese participated in the application process and were awarded grants.

Among them, St. Mary’s School in Breckenridge requested funds for four LEGO Robotics sets with software. The school has worked toward amassing a classroom set, so students can work in teams of two.

Tom Haire, teacher of sixth-grade homeroom, directs the yearlong LEGO Robotics project.

Preschool teacher Steph Pederson looks through boxes of school supplies pre-ordered by her students’ parents to prepare for the upcoming year at St. Francis Xavier School in Sartell. (Photo by Dianne Towalski / The Visitor)

“The course takes what our students have learned in math and science and puts that to practical use in programming their robot,” Haire said. “Besides that, it helps with collaboration and critical thinking, trial and error, problem-solving skills — which are so important in working with others.”

Pairs of students assemble their robot and program it to move ahead and in reverse, make 90-degree turns, move from point A to B and park it in a garage, he said. Later in the year teams compete in a Battlebot, in which one robot has to knock another one out of a circle.

Haire also teaches social studies to seventh- and eighth-graders.

“We’re grateful to the Catholic Foundation for the school initiative grant,” said Linda Johnson, St. Mary’s principal.

In addition to grants from the Living the Promise fund, the Catholic Foundation administers two other school-related grant programs: the Catholic Schools Student Scholarship Fund and a Stearns County Schools Endowment.

A grateful family

The Catholic Schools Student Scholarship Fund awarded 100 scholarships of $300 this year.

Paul and Annie Toenyan’s family in Greenwald received scholarships for their children who attended St. John’s/St. Andrew’s School in Greenwald — Alexa in sixth grade, twins Nathan and Noah in second grade and Jared in kindergarten. Daughter Julia will attend Melrose Area Schools as a seventh-grader.

“A few years ago, we had just moved across the street from the school,” Annie Toenyan said. “I thought the twins might get lost in the shuffle at a larger school and that a smaller class size was best. We couldn’t afford Catholic school but [Principal] Sister Suzanne [Slominski] said, ‘Don’t let that stop you.’ The school sent a scholarship packet to fill out. With God and our faith as priorities, God will work things out for you.”

What is appealing about our school, she said, “is that they can practice the faith and say meal prayers, things not done in the public school. Our kids like the smaller environment.”

Since 2013, when this fund began, 404 scholarships have been distributed, and the number of yearly scholarships awarded has more than doubled, from 45 to 100.
Stearns County schools

In 2004, an anonymous donor established the Stearns County Schools Endowment with the Catholic Foundation. This month, grants amounting to $12,915 were distributed to the 13 Catholic schools in Stearns County.

“We are so grateful to support education in our schools with grants and scholarships, and faith formation in our parishes with grants, to advance our Catholic faith,” Coudron said. “And we’re proud to say that $229,863 — in this year alone — has been sent directly to our parishes and Catholic schools to help build the Body of Christ here.”

The Catholic Foundation is a 501c3 corporation that is separate and distinct from the St. Cloud Diocese.

About Nikki Rajala

Nikki Rajala is a writer/copy editor for The Visitor newspaper.

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