By Tim Harfmann
Seventh grader Ashley Cela was enrolled in public school until last year, when Saint Bartholomew Catholic Academy provided her family with a scholarship.
“It means a lot to us because it’s really giving me a chance to study in a Catholic school, and it’s really helping my parents,” said Ashley.
The Celas are one of nearly 50 families receiving tuition help this year.
The Elmhurst, Queens academy is one of 15 Catholic academies in Brooklyn and Queens with considered to be an ‘embassy school.’
“It means it gives the opportunity for children in our parish to come, where parents might be struggling with the full tuition,” explained Father Richard Beuther, the pastor of St. Bartholomew Church.
It’s also a way for the parish to give back to its immigrant community, made up mostly of Filipinos, Ecuadorians, and Mexicans.
School officials meet directly with parents and access their financial needs. Then, scholarships ranging from 300-1,500 dollars are granted accordingly.
But for these students, the experience they receive is not only about academics.
“When we ask our parents, ‘What do you want for your child?’ they want a school where they could learn, but also be rooted in their faith,” said Denise Gonzalez, principal of the Catholic academy.
Embassy schools not only provide scholarships, but are able to fund classroom programs centered around robotics, art and technology.
Eighth grader Brayden Castro is one of the students on the St. Bartholomew robotics team and has hopes of becoming an engineer when he grows up.
“I want to try to add something to the world and try to make the world a better place,” he explained. That’s just what the academy wants for its nearly 180 students and counting.
“We’re trying to gain more to come out of the public school, and come into a Catholic environment and community,” said Fr. Beuther.
St. Bartholomew also reaches out to nearly 800 students in the parish’s faith formation classes, letting families know that they all can afford a faith-based education that will strengthen the Catholic community for generations to come.