By: Jennifer Bigelow, Superintendent of Arlington Catholic Schools
It’s one of my favorite weeks of the year: National Catholic Schools Week! This week, coordinated by the National Catholic Education Association, is a recognition of the special place of Catholic education not only in our Church but also in the greater society. We have much to be grateful for in the Diocese of Arlington about our commitment to Catholic education.
My earliest memory of Catholic Schools Week was as a student at a Catholic grade school in my hometown. We had a school-wide picnic on the school grounds and were encouraged to decorate shoeboxes for our “boxed” lunch. We had parents visit us throughout the school day, and our pastor told us stories about when he was a student in Catholic schools. I have loved this week for a very long time.
Here in the Diocese of Arlington, we are very blessed to have parishes, priests and a bishop who truly support Catholic education. Their active support of our mission is evident not only in what they say, but also in what they do. I am also grateful to those parishes that do not have a Catholic school at their parish but support Catholic education. Our schools serve to evangelize children and families and cannot do so without strong support throughout the Diocese.
The Diocese of Arlington helps to bust the myth that Catholic education is only for privileged families. We have multiple scholarship and tuition assistance opportunities to help anyone attend our schools. This year alone our students received more than $4.8 million in scholarships and tuition assistance.
Our schools are not only affordable, but accessible. Almost all of our elementary schools offer extended day hours to fit the needs of working families, and almost all of our elementary and high schools are equipped to offer special needs resources to learning disabled students. Five of our schools offer programs for students with developmental and intellectual delays, and several of others are looking to add similar programs.
Catholic schools have changed a lot over the years, but we remain steadfast in our pursuit of academic excellence. We maintain a 99% high school graduation rate with 98% of those graduates being accepted by a college or university. Additionally, our graduates received $83.2 million in grants and scholarships last year. Not surprising when you consider our students’ SAT scores are an average of 163 points above the Virginia average and 214 points above the national average.
Our students succeed because they receive an education rooted in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, where Catholic doctrine and values, and academic excellence prepare each student for a life of faith, service and integrity. We provide this by hiring the best teachers with a combined teaching experience of 16,000 years. Our administrators, teachers and staff not only have great academic credentials but see their roles as ministers in education. They have answered a call to the vocation of teaching, and we are blessed for their commitment.
Catholic schools in the Diocese of Arlington provide quality educational opportunities through the lens of our Catholic faith. Thank you for your continuing prayers and support, and happy Catholic Schools Week!
Jennifer Bigelow is Superintendent of Catholic Schools for the Diocese of Arlington.