The Learn to Lead Special Collection last fall raised $339,932.47 for the diocese’s Catholic schools. The special collection was part of a larger campaign effort called Learn to Lead, initiated by the diocese in 2021 to raise money for scholarships, professional development for teachers, and grants for schools in need. Donations for the special collection came in by mail, online, and from a special parish in-pew collection during the weekend of Sept. 30-Oct. 1 last fall.
Bishop Barry C. Knestout, who has been very involved with the campaign, said, “I have been inspired by the strong support from around the diocese for Catholic schools, even among those who are not directly affiliated with one.”
The bishop noted that although the Learn to Lead campaign is largely concluded, several schools still have local campaigns underway and support is needed.
“Although the Learn to Lead campaign has been a success, our schools will continue to face ongoing needs (which are great),” Bishop Knestout added. “Further efforts will be required within the diocese to seek support and assistance, especially from those who have a heart for Catholic schools, and those who appreciate what a Catholic education provides.”
The bishop said that in order to continue supporting Catholic schools, it is important to grow awareness and support for the EISTC (Education Improvement Scholarships Tax Credits) program. The Commonwealth of Virginia created EISTC in 2012, giving state tax credits for donations to certain scholarship foundations. The scholarships are for students who attend private schools and whose families meet certain federal poverty guidelines.
In the 2021-2022 fiscal year, more than 1,300 students in Catholic schools in the Diocese of Richmond received EISTC funding. The majority – 1,060 students – attended diocesan schools. For that school year, EISTC funding totaled $14 million.
EISTC “provides a tremendous benefit to donors while also providing Catholic school scholarships for deserving students,” said the bishop.
“I am grateful for all the ways our parishioners across the diocese stepped up to support our Catholic schools,” said Margaret Keightley, executive director of the Catholic Community Foundation. She explained that they surpassed the Learn to Lead campaign’s initial goal of $30 million and hope to raise more for schools.
Bishop Knestout said crucial initiatives from Learn to Lead will fund local priorities at the diocese’s Catholic schools, enhance financial aid, support economically disadvantaged schools, develop and retain outstanding teachers, and promote Catholic education to a new generation of students.
“I believe that the positive impact of this special campaign will be experienced for several years to come,” said the bishop.
The contributions “are blessing many children who will in turn be a blessing to the many people they will meet throughout their lives,” added Keightley. “What a remarkable investment!”