News & Event
He became a single parent when his son Dominque was 17 months old. Sam decided he wanted something different for him and looked to the Catholic school system.
“I wanted something special for Dominque,” he shared. “I understood the point of education, even though I didn’t have it myself.”
Sam gushes when he talks about Dominque’s school.
The eighth grader attends St. Francis Seraph, part of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, located on Liberty Street in Over-the-Rhine.
“Once I got to meet Principal Wanda Hill, I fell in love with her,” he said. “She’s truly concerned with inner-city kids and her staff reflects that.”
Despite working two jobs, Sam has little “wiggle room” for school tuition. He receives tuition assistance from the Catholic Inner-City Schools Education Fund (CISE).
Founded in 1980, CISE exists to raise funds to supplement the dollars which the Archdiocese of Cincinnati contributes annually to urban schools.
Funds raised provide tuition aid to parents and school operating expenses. There are seven CISE K-8 schools under the umbrella of the Archdiocese.
A staggering 82 percent of the students in CISE schools live at or below poverty level.
There were about 1,350 students in CISE schools this year and most of these children receive tuition assistance.
“CISE is what makes this school possible,” Principal Wanda Hill said. “The tuition assistance makes it possible for the neediest people to come here. I tell the people at CISE, you are giving people a choice to come here. When you give them a choice, you give them dignity.”
And it works.
The CISE schools, which welcome children of all faiths, have a high success rate – 96 percent attending Catholic high schools successfully graduate and many go on to college. The class of 2006 has an 88 percent college enrollment rate.
Volunteer Harry Santen said part of the success is the commitment of parents to contribute towards tuition; it demonstrates their own commitment to the value of education.
Harry isn’t your average volunteer – he’s been with CISE for 20 years and was chair for 15. He also teaches pottery classes to the students and supports CISE financially through a fund at GCF.
“We don’t have a lot of bells and whistles,” Harry said, “But it’s a terrific education.”
It’s this lack of bells and whistles that led Harry to work with the CISE principals and create a program that will allow top students to live up to their potential.
Together with Tracy Moore II, Harry is launching the Leadership Scholars Program. Students at local Catholic high schools will serve as mentors to the top CISE students, with a focus on leadership.
“I think mentorship/role modeling is very important for the African-American community as well as education,” said Tracy, himself a product of Catholic schools. “I think that it will also give the students something to look forward to, to aspire to, help them dream bigger, and know that they can overcome the obstacles in their lives.”
As a father, Sam dreams big for his son and works hard to overcome obstacles. For instance, Sam had reservations about Dominque walking to school, beginning in the sixth grade, but talked to him about being alert and paying attention.
“Where we live on Walnut there is a lot of drama, even though the police have recently cleaned it up around there,” he said. “I’d make pretend I was going back inside the house and watch him, keep my eye on him.”
The father/son team is a dynamic pair. They are just one example of why people like Harry Santen, Wanda Hill and Tracy Moore are dedicated to CISE students and parents.
Dominque’s education at St. Francis will culminate in success – he earned a scholarship to attend Roger Bacon High School this fall.
The soft-spoken, well-mannered 13-year-old hopes to play football next year but said, “I’m going to concentrate on my classes first.”
Spoken like someone who keeps his eye on the obstacles.
His father should be very proud.
Harry Santen established The Leadership Scholars Fund, a designated fund exclusively benefiting CISE, in 2003. Many other GCF donors show support for CISE by suggesting grants totaling more than $2.5 million since 1996 from donor advised funds and two other designated funds.
Originally published in the 2006 Annual Report
As we wrap up 2019, we look back at our very impactful year of moving forward on many fronts! As your community foundation, Greater Cincinnati Foundation (GCF) is grateful for the support of and partnerships with our donors, nonprofit partners and community stakeholders to bring about a more equitable future for everyone in our region.