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Catholic Educators Want More Latinos in Schools


A task force at the University of Notre Dame will look for strategies to get more Latino children into Catholic schools.

The University of Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) program has established a new task force to examine the participation of Latino children and families in Catholic schools.

While some 75 percent of Latino immigrants are Catholic, only 3 percent send their children to Catholic schools, UND officials said.

However, research shows that Catholic schools serve low-income minority students — especially Latinos — far more effectively than comparable public school options, the university said. In Catholic schools, it said such students are 50 percent more likely to graduate from high school and 250 percent more likely to go to college than their peers in public schools.

“Recognizing the obstacles to expanding Latino enrollment in Catholic schools, yet deeply aware of the opportunities, we believe that now is the time for a serious national dialogue and the development of a national strategy,”  said the Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., Notre Dame’s president. “Through this task force we aim to catalyze a dramatic increase in the enrollment of Latino children in Catholic schools nationally over the next decade.”

Jenkins established the task force that will convene over an eight- to 12-month period.

The committee will be co-chaired by Juliet V. Garcia, president of the University of Texas at Brownsville, and Rev. Joseph Corpora, C.S.C., pastor at Holy Redeemer Catholic Church and School in Portland, Ore.

A 2007 report from a previous task force that studied issues facing Catholic schools challenged educators to find ways to welcome Hispanic students.

“The church and its schools must find ways to serve and be engaged by the growing Latino population,” the report said.

It said obstacles to Hispanic enrollment included the perception that Catholic schools were elitist, as well as financial limitations and language barriers for students.

Established in 1994, ACE provides about 85 college graduates a year an opportunity to earn master’s degrees while serving as teachers in understaffed Catholic schools nationwide. In exchange for a modest stipend and a tuition-free graduate program, the ACE participants commit to teach for two years in these schools.

The graduate students take courses and participate in projects at Notre Dame during their two summers in the program and are assigned to full-time teaching positions at schools in some 30 cities and 14 states during the academic year.

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