By Matthew Vereecke
Special to The Texas Catholic
As we prepare to embark on another Catholic Schools Week, I have been reflecting on my own Catholic education and the incredible number of people who came together in order to ensure that I could receive the tremendous gifts of the many Catholic schools of which I have been a part.
Whether it was the Dominican Sisters at Marywood, my preschool and kindergarten, or my lay teachers at Holy Trinity and St. Anthony, or my peers and instructors at West Catholic High School and Notre Dame, or my parents and extended family who sacrificed in order to give me my opportunities, all of them believed in the same basic tenet: Catholic schools are about choosing a better life.
Here within the Diocese of Dallas, our dedicated teachers and staff absolutely believe in the promise and the possibility of what Catholic education can do for our community. Our schools work tirelessly to ensure that students are placed on the road to college and heaven; that they are preparing students academically, morally and spiritually to lead communities and to carry on the faith.
We know that Catholic school graduates are:
* More likely to pray daily, attend Mass more often, retain a Catholic identity as an adult and donate more to the church
*Twice as likely to attend college than students enrolled in public schools
*More civically engaged, more likely to vote, more tolerant of diverse views and more committed to service as adults
*Able to enjoy higher earning potential than other graduates
We also know that Catholic schools locally:
*Dramatically lessen or even eliminate the racial and socio-economic achievement gap seen among students in Texas
*Are able to at the very least double Texas state averages for achievement on the ACT for African-American and Hispanic students
*Enjoy 100 percent high school graduation rates and 99 percent four-year college attendance rates
These stats have generated a lot of interest in what Catholic schools are doing in Texas and specifically in Dallas. Nationally, our elementary schools are continuing to be recognized with the nearly 20 Blue Ribbon Awards (open to only the top 10 percent of schools nationally) in the last two decades, with three in the last three years. At our high schools, our students are achieving college-readiness benchmarks at rates up to eight times better than their peers.
Our administrators are routinely recognized by the NCEA, and our leadership is present on a number of national boards and groups due to the growth in Texas. National groups have hosted brainstorming and working-group sessions here in Dallas to learn about the robust and innovative aspects of our schools.
All of this is to say that we have a great many things to be proud of here in the diocese, things that are ultimately provided by the teachers, parents, staff members and administration of our schools. They are the people who consistently sacrifice to ensure that our students will be exceptionally well prepared in all that they do, and help to move the church forward. During this Catholic Schools Week, I would ask that you remember all of them — and all that have gone before us — in your thoughts and prayers. They are walking each day with our students on the road to college and heaven.
Matthew Vereecke is superintendent of Catholic schools for the Diocese of Dallas.