Betty Contino felt the Holy Spirit moving her at the conclusion of the second annual luncheon for the Women’s Alliance of Partners in Excellence. She spontaneously rose to her feet.
“This is really what we need to be doing” Contino implored the crowd of about 100. “Let’s pick up the ball and go with it.”
The gathering brought current and potential members of the Women’s Alliance together on the campus of Seton Keough High School and Holy Angels Catholic School. In existence for five years, the alliance provides philanthropic support to economically disadvantaged students, in the form of scholarships to Catholic schools.
Partners in Excellence is in its 15th year. More than 700 students were awarded nearly $1 million in scholarships in the 2010-11 school year. Ninety-one percent of scholarship recipients in the class of 2010 are attending college.
Women’s Alliance memberships begin at $1,000 and provide a partial scholarship. A $5,000 gift provides five partial scholarships for five students in one year or a full scholarship for one student. A $10,000 gift provides 10 partial scholarships or two full scholarships for two students.
Contino previously assisted with Baltimore’s homeless and began to see the effects of educational failure and was called to help.
“We need to get them right out of the chute,” she said. “I just believe in this effort so much.”
Holy Angels students provided tours of their school throughout the day. Katherine Awalt, whose husband Ronald was to be ordained a permanent deacon May 14, joined the Women’s Alliance after the tours.
“They (students) were just so proud of their school,” Awalt said.
Holy Angels principal Kathleen Filippelli told stories of life-changing experiences for children in urban Catholic schools.
“Their cycle of poverty will end because of your gift of an education to these wonderful children,” Filippelli said. “Our children are people for others. They give the way you give to them. You are a great example. These are your kids.”
Alajia Vaughn, a Holy Angels eighth-grader who will attend Seton Keough, said tuition assistance allows her to attend these schools. She wants to become an obstetrician and comes from a family suffering from recent work layoffs.
“I will do everything in my power to keep my grades the best they can possibly be in order to hopefully earn a scholarship to the college and medical schools of my choice,” she said. “Earning a scholarship will be the most beneficial thing for my family and that is why I am so motivated and dedicated to do my best every day.”
Superintendent Barbara McGraw Edmondson celebrated principals of designated community schools in attendance for their efforts.
“Their work is dependent upon the commitment of our archdiocese to serve these children and dependent upon the care and support of benefactors, educators and community leaders who understand the critical need to keep the dream alive in our urban schools.”
Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien said religious and lay women were crucial to his own education.
“What you’re doing is carrying on a great tradition,” he said. “We form character. We are able to form that character because we have a vision here.”