“We must not rob children of their capacity to dream. Let us seek to promote an environment of hope, where their dreams may grow and be shared.” – Pope Francis
About a week before Archbishop Lori announced the closure of our Catholic schools because of the Covid-19 pandemic, I was able to visit the 1st grade at Holy Angels Catholic School as a guest reader in honor of Dr. Seuss’ birthday. This was the fourth year that I’ve been a guest reader – and I absolutely love it.
As I sat in my reader’s chair and greeted the bright and lively cluster of 7-year-olds, I noticed a couple of students who did not move up and sit on the carpet in front of me. One boy sat next to the teacher’s aide with his head on the desktop. Another boy sat, stone-faced, staring gloomily at me. I smiled directly at him and said, “Good morning! How are you feeling today?” He responded by turning his head away. Mrs. Poland, the 1st grade teacher, replied for him, “He seems to have woken up on the wrong side of his bed this morning, Mr. Matt.” I then invited the boy to come sit on the carpet with the rest of his classmates when he was ready.
It took me a couple minutes to address the myriad of initial questions (and statements) from the energy-filled students at my feet. “How tall are you?” “You have BIG feet!” “Do you know what today is?” “I have that book, too!” Finally, I was able to settle them down and start reading a classic Dr. Seuss book: Mr. Brown Can Moo. Can You? The ‘audience-participation’ opportunities that the book offers makes this the perfect book to read to a group of boisterous 1st graders.
Moments later, a couple dozen kids were mooing, buzzing and clopping along with the story. At the first refrain of “Moo, moo, buzz, buzz, clop, clop, clop”, the tired boy in the back popped up his head. By the time we were all saying “Dibble, dibble, dop, dop, cock-a-doodle doo!!” the grumpy boy slid out of his chair and was crawling toward the carpet.
“BOOM, BOOM, BOOM!! Mr. Brown is a wonder!” Giggles rippled through the crowd at my feet as we reached the denouement of the story. The tired boy was now on the carpet, too. “BOOM, BOOM, BOOM!! Mr. Brown makes thunder!” Every child was engaged – listening, participating, laughing. Light danced in their eyes. Their smiles lit up the room. When I finished the last page and pronounced “The End”, the kids cheered. I felt like an absolute rock star. When I stood, their attempt at a group hug almost took me to the ground. Mrs. Poland had to intervene for my safety.
In moments like this, the mission of our Catholic Community Schools and all the things associated with them – particularly PIE – become tangible and humanized. What our schools do is exactly what Pope Francis refers to in the opening quote: promote an environment of hope where dreams may grow and be shared. The role that PIE plays in all of this is simple, yet vitally important. Without PIE and the generous support of donors and friends like you, hundreds of Baltimore City students would not have the opportunity of an ‘environment of hope’. Thanks for all you do to give this opportunity to these amazing children.
PIE Award Update
For the 2019-2020 school year, PIE has awarded 760 PIE Scholarships totaling $1,563,575. The majority of the scholarships were awarded to students at one of four PreK-8 Community Schools here in Baltimore City:
- Archbishop Borders School
- Cardinal Shehan School
- Holy Angels Catholic School
- James & John Catholic School
The average scholarship of $2,057 represents between 35% and 40% of the tuition cost, depending on the school, and underscores the intent to have all families pay something toward their child’s tuition. We believe that literal investment in your child’s education leads to a stronger sense of ownership and accountability which, in turn, fosters better attendance and performance. As such, the overall attendance rate of PIE Scholars is consistently above 90% each year, and has reached as high as 95% in recent years.
2019-2020 PIE Award Summary
|PIE Scholars||Total Awards||Ave. Award|
|Overall (28 schools)||760||$1,563,575||$2,057.34|
|Archdiocesan Community Schools (4)||511||$1,161,375||$2,273|
|Archbishop Borders School||105||$294,850||$2,808|
|Cardinal Shehan Catholic School||142||$289,260||$2,037|
|Holy Angels Catholic School||147||$304,015||$2,068|
|Ss. James & John Catholic School||117||$273,250||$2,335|
|Archbishop Curley High School*||50||$124,000||$2,480|
|*12% of PIE Awards this year are going to high school students. Archbishop Curley, the only Archdiocesan high school in Baltimore City, represents more than half of these awards.|
Since PIE’s inception in 1996, the program has awarded a total of 27,472 scholarships totaling $34,147,774. While award information in the early years of PIE was not tracked, we conservatively estimate that the total number of students who have received a PIE Scholarship is well over 10,000.
Over the past four years, our Community Schools and many of the families they serve have benefitted from the Maryland State Department of Education’s BOOST Scholarship Program. As we’ve reported in the past, a number of our PIE Scholars have also been awarded a BOOST scholarship. The overall impact has been a decrease in the average tuition assistance need of our students, thus allowing PIE to spread out its available funds a little more broadly. This year’s 760 PIE awards represents the highest number of awards PIE has made in over 10 years.
While our students are in a home-school situation, the PIE award process for the upcoming 2020-21 school year has begun. We do not know the long-term impact that the Covid-19 pandemic will have on our schools, but we anticipate that the families of our PIE Scholars will likely have a greater-than-normal tuition assistance need. As this report is being written, Archbishop Borders School has reported that at least 30 students have had parents lose their job in the past two weeks. They expect that the number will rise in the coming month. Due to this, twenty percent of their enrolled families were not able to make their March tuition payment. Please keep these families in prayer!
With a goal of maintaining the ‘environment of hope’ which every child deserves, our Community Schools have worked diligently to stay connected with their students, including going above-and-beyond in their outreach to families who are struggling more than others. For example, Holy Angels has been conducting a weekly ‘Grab-and-Go’ drive-thru food pantry for their families. As parents struggle to balance home-schooling with tenuous job circumstances, any form of support is appreciated. On average, about 70 cars have come by each week to grab some extra food and school supplies for their children.
Scenes from Holy Angels’ Grab-and-Go
*Social Distance rules were observed!
In other good news, PIE is thrilled to announce a new multi-year pledge from MedStar Health and an increased annual gift from the W. R. Grace Foundation. We are so grateful for these, and our other, corporate partners.
Finally, as this school year concludes, several PIE Board members are wrapping up their tenure on the PIE Board of Advisors. This includes former Chair, Tom Kurowski, and longtime board members Glenn Falcao, Elaine Pevenstein and Ann Doyle. We thank them for their outstanding service and support for PIE and the students we serve!
As PIE looks to its 25th Anniversary Year next school year, we are deeply grateful for the incredibly consistent and generous support the program has received over the years. This support has allowed us to follow our PIE Scholars through to graduation, giving them and their families peace of mind and great hope. Thank you for the part that you have played in this.