Providing ‘good care and a good education’ with a little help from Share in the Spirit
When Eric Eyong and his wife Myra considered a school for their children, he knew where he wanted them to be: in a Catholic school.
He knew the values Catholic education provide since he attended a Catholic boarding school while growing up in Cameroon, on Africa’s Atlantic coast. He likes the Christian values that are instilled by the Catholic Schools. And as a former public school teacher in the Chicago area, he appreciates the discipline Catholic schools provide, something he determined is especially lacking in public schools.
So when his daughter Jada started pre-kindergarten, it was at Holy Cross School in Dover, not far from the Eyongs’ home. “We needed to put her in a school where we feel like she will get good care and a good education.”
But affording a Catholic education has been a struggle, especially when their younger daughter, third-grader Chelsea, joined seventh-grader Jada at Holy Cross. The Eyongs faced an annual tuition of almost $11,000, adjusted for discounts for multiple students from the same family and for being parishioners of Holy Cross Parish. Full tuition for a single student at Holy Cross is $6,171, according to the school’s website.
They applied for, and received tuition assistance through the Diocese of Wilmington’s Vision for the Future Education Trust and from the annual Share in the Spirit collection taken on the fourth weekend of September. This year’s collection will be Sept. 23-24.
“Would we be able to pay the whole amount? I doubt it very much,” Eyong said. “My wife and I don’t make enough money to afford Catholic education for our children.”
“We are willing to sacrifice, and the assistance we receive helps.”
In all, grants totaling $601,500 have been awarded to families for the current school year, helping 306 children attend Catholic schools, according to Deborah Fols, the diocese’s director of development who oversees the collection. Tuition assistance pays for up to 50 percent of the cost of tuition; the percentage of the award is dependent upon the need of each recipient family.
But the need is much greater.
“The 306 students being helped this year represent approximately one-third of the nearly 1,000 students whose parents applied for assistance,” she said. “The independent agency that analyzes each family’s situation calculated the total amount those families needed to fully afford a Catholic school education at approximately $4 million.”
The Vision for the Future Education Trust was started in the early 1990s, using gifts from businesses, private foundations, and individuals. The first grants were awarded in 1993. The Share in the Spirit collection began in 2005. Interest from the Education Trust, coupled with money raised through annual collection, are used to fund tuition assistance awards.
Fols believes both the trust and the Share in the Spirit collection are investments in providing a strong, Catholic education to children. As she has said, “The more students we are able to serve, the stronger our Catholic schools become.”
Eyong also views the sacrifices he and his wife make to provide a Catholic education for their daughters as an “investment in them.” Even with the grants, “we do a lot of sacrificing to pay what we do pay.”
He appreciates those who contribute to the Share in the Spirit collection.
“I wish I could thank each and every one of them for all their kindness,” he said. “Without their help, my children would not be able to attend Holy Cross School.”
He also believes those who participate in the collection provide an example for his children by helping them “learn to appreciate being able to help others, as we are being helped today.”