CASA-funded grants essential to offering quality education

Kristen Stehle (left) and Caroline Hart (right) work on their computer skills at St. Joseph School in Paris while fellow student Alec Mertin watches.
Kristen Stehle (left) and Caroline Hart (right) work on their computer skills at St. Joseph School in Paris while fellow student Alec Mertin watches.

For Arkansas’ Catholic school students, CASA is as essential to education as the three Rs or ABCs.
In 2006, the Catholic Arkansas Sharing Appeal supplied diocesan schools with $89,650 in much-needed grants.
“For us it’s very important because of our low enrollment,” said Vivian Fox, principal at St. Joseph School in Paris. “We need these funds to get the extra things for educating our children.”

How to support CASA
Catholic Arkansas Sharing Appeal is the Diocese of Little Rock’s annual fund-raiser to support diocesan ministries and services offered to parishes, schools and individuals. To make a donation, pick up a pledge card at a local parish, call (501) 664-0340 or visit

Last year, the pre-K to 8th grade school of some 85 students received approximately $8,200 in grants, which was used for library books and computers. For 2007, the school received $5,000.
“This year, we used the grant money to replace computers that were seven to eight years old,” Fox said. “It’s important to keep our technology up to date.”
In Stuttgart, Holy Rosary School used its grant money for much-needed repairs to the building, including plumbing and security at the front door. In the previous academic year, the school used the grant it received as seed money to build a fence for the school.
“The $10,000 was a great kick start,” said principal Kathy Lorince.
The remainder of the project was funded by local parishioners. The outdoor project was important because “We want people to see how their money is spent,” she said.
Arkansas has 32 Catholic schools with nearly 8,000 students, according to superintendent Vernell Bowen. Except for grants that come from CASA, each school is responsible for funding itself.
“Each school has its own budget,” she said. “The grants are very important because the cost of education has gone up. We have lay teachers and that has helped increase the cost because you have to give a fair wage.”
Despite rising costs and a shortfall in last year’s fundraising, Catholic schools in Arkansas continue to graduate high achievers.
Bowen said 96 percent of Arkansas Catholic high school students go to college. That is compared to slightly more than 60 percent of all high school students nationwide who were admitted to a post-secondary school, according to the National Association for College Admission Counseling.
Contributions to this year’s appeal are more important than ever to help new students gain access to the high-quality education in the Catholic schools.
“There is a big need for tuition assistance for low-income students,” Bowen said. “For that purpose we get to pull a certain amount from CASA. This year we pulled $13,850.
Another great need in diocesan schools is for tuition assistance for Hispanic children. It is aid that may, in the long run, help keep open inner city Catholic schools, Bowen said.
“This is distributed statewide. We have a large Hispanic population at Fort Smith, at St. Raphael’s in Springdale,” she said. “St. Edward’s in Little Rock and St. Theresa’s are those schools, that if they had more available scholarship money, would be able to have more students.”
Bowen encourages all to participate in the annual appeal. “It’s very important — there are so many needs across all of the schools for materials and for facilities,” Bowen said. “It just helps with their ability to provide a high quality of education.”

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