After traveling 30,000 miles to visit more than 16,000 Catholic school students throughout the past year, the Alliance for Catholic Education’s celebration of the gift of Catholic schools is just beginning.
The Fighting for Our Children’s Future National Bus Tour visited 65 K-12 Catholic schools across 35 states to celebrate the vital role these and thousands of other Catholic schools play in serving poor and marginalized students and their communities. According to ACE’s founders, those 30,000 miles are just the first step in changing the narrative on Catholic schools — a narrative that has been plagued with school closures for the last decade.
“The story being told in Catholic schools should be one of zeal, one of joy and one of promise,” Rev. Timothy R. Scully, C.S.C., founder of the Alliance for Catholic Education at the University of Notre Dame, said. “We set out with the mantra that ‘Catholic schools are good for America,’ that they are absolutely vital for our children, our communities and our nation. The stories we have witnessed on the road and the amazing people we have met along the way have deepened our commitment to Notre Dame’s mission to serve these sacred places.”
Father Scully noted that research clearly shows a continuing Catholic school advantage. Ninety-nine percent of Catholic school students graduate high school on time, and 85 percent attend college. Studies also show that Catholic school graduates tend to be more civically engaged, more likely to vote, more tolerant of diverse views, more committed to service as adults and less likely to be incarcerated than their peers.
Despite this advantage, Catholic schools have struggled in recent years. ACE’s tour, and its mission to strengthen, sustain and transform these schools, set out to raise awareness of the success of this proven model and of the profound impact the schools have on nearly two million students who attend them.
“The future of Catholic schools is bright, but our work is just beginning,” said Rev. Sean McGraw, C.S.C., who co-founded ACE 20 years ago with Scully. “We continue to engage in an effort to provide solutions to what is certainly America’s greatest civic challenge: ensuring that every American child, especially the most vulnerable, has the opportunity for a quality education.”
The National Bus Tour kicked off in Dallas in October 2013 in conjunction with the Notre Dame Shamrock Series football game before visiting schools and honoring local education champions in the Midwest and on the East Coast. In November, as the bus rolled into New York City, the Manhattan Institute honored Father Scully with the William E. Simon Prize for Lifetime Achievement in Social Entrepreneurship for his founding and leadership of ACE.
The bus headed south in February to revisit ACE’s roots and long-standing partnerships throughout the Gulf Coast. March featured visits throughout Oklahoma, Colorado and Texas, while April included trips to Chicago and Minnesota. The tour wrapped up the 2013-2014 academic year in May with trips through West Coast cities.
On Monday (June 9), the University of Notre Dame will welcome the bus and the ACE team home, and will honor two members of the South Bend and Notre Dame communities — Jay Caponigro and Maritza Robles — with the University of Notre Dame Champion for Education Award. ACE will also present the Notre Dame Sorin Award for Service to Catholic Schools to Brian and Jeannelle Brady, without whom the bus tour would not have been possible. The homecoming coincides with the start of the ACE Summer, when more than 800 teachers, school leaders and Catholic school supporters — including 95 new teachers who make up ACE Service through Teaching’s 21st cohort — converge on Notre Dame’s campus for leadership formation and other opportunities focused on building a brighter future for Catholic schools.