Crossroads Foundation gives access to Catholic education

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Over the past 23 years, the Crossroads Foundation has successfully cycled 395 students through its program. Of these students 98 percent graduated, 97 percent have gone on to post-secondary education, 92 percent have gone to a four year college, 88 percent have graduated from a four year college, and 15 percent have advanced degrees.

“After 23 years doing this, we know the pieces to help students coming from challenging environments, but we keep getting better and better,” said Crossroads Executive Director Florence Rouzier. “We don’t know a better way to get these children out of poverty than education.”

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CLASS OF 2011—Each and every student at the 2011 Crossroads Foundation Graduation Dinner has gone on to college.

The Crossroads Foundation provides “holistic scholarships” that consist of tuition assistance and intensive academic and psychosocial support services, to students wishing to attend Catholic high schools. Students admitted to the program have previously attended feeder Catholic elementary schools in urban areas.

“The parents were already making sacrifices to send their kids to the feeder schools. The foundation realized it wasn’t enough to help them with finances; they needed to help with wrap around services. The parents are usually responsible for 10 to 15 percent of the tuition. We feel like having that small investment allows us to have a lot of buy in from the parents,” Rouzier said. “For a lot of the parents, they like the spirituality, but the majority, 75 percent, are not Catholic.”

Funding for Crossroads comes from the Educational Improvement Tax Credit Program, which allows qualified businesses to fund education rather than pay a percentage of its state taxes. To do this, the business makes a gift, through the EITC program, to an EITC-registered scholarship organization or an EITC-registered education improvement organization. The state Department of Community and Economic Development gives the business a tax credit equal to a percentage of the business’s contribution.

Private schools have come under fire recently in relation to legislation that would expand EITC funding and provide vouchers for parents wishing to move their children from a “failing school” to a private school.

“Crossroads would benefit from additional EITC funds. There’s too many parents who are suffering from failing schools that are not benefitting their children,” Rouzier said. “The flipside is that the private schools don’t have to accept you. If they accept a kid who needs a lot of support and the support is not there to be successful, that kid is going to be sent back to the failing school they came from. A lot of the kids who come from urban areas, they need more than acceptance into the school. They need wrap around services. If they don’t think that way, they’re setting up these kids to fail.”

In order to be admitted into the Crossroads program, student must have attended one of the 19 designated elementary schools for three years. They are also required to have a ‘C’ letter grade average and already be accepted to a Catholic high school.

While in the program, the students receive wrap-around services that include tutoring and academic advising. The program also deals closely with the student social growth, by providing parental support services, counseling services, and leadership development.

“One of the things we hear all the time is we cherry pick our kids, but if you’re a stellar student and all you need is financing, we don’t accept you,” Rouzier said. “Half of our parents have kids in the public schools, but should they be doomed not to have a choice? We believe strong public education produces a strong democracy, but one size doesn’t fit all. If a kid is really bright, we feel they could be successful in public settings. So we take the ones with some need for support. If an environment is failing that child, should a parent wait idly and not advocate for their children?”

Over the course of four years, the students attend a series of four summer programs designed to make them college-ready by graduation. During these sessions, the students stay on college campuses and are mentored by college students, giving them a real taste of the college experience.

“One of the reasons we continue to work with these high schools is they allow us to have complete access to their schools. There’s really not much we don’t know about these students. The schools allow us to have access to their online system. So we’re a huge safety net. We can tell very quickly who’s in danger of failing,” Rouzier said. “We’re very intentional about monitoring who is doing well, so we do a lot of course advising. If you’re doing well, we don’t want you to coast. We’re very deliberate about getting them to set academic goals so if a kid is doing very well in math we push them to take an advanced math class. It’s not just like we tell them, you should do this because we want you to do this. Whenever we can show the relationship between college and career, we do.”

The foundation’s other donors include Heinz Endowment, Bradford Schools, United Concordia, R.K. Mellon, Centimark, PACE, Allegheny Foundation, Paul G. Benedum Foundation, and numerous anonymous donors and private family foundations.

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