This article originally appeared in the Seattle Times Giving Guide on November 27, 2022.
A high-quality education changes lives.
As a student, Ayita Berhane knew she wanted to make a positive impact on the people she would work with. She says she found her path when she was able to attend a Seattle area Catholic school.
“As soon as I attended Catholic school, I was on track to go to college,” Ayita said. “I don’t think that would have been a given if I hadn’t switched from where I was to the Catholic school system.”
Catholic education offers rigorous academics grounded in teachings of service and social justice. Students in Catholic schools are high-performing and graduate at higher rates than other institutions. Students who attend Catholic high school are also more likely to attend a four-year college or university.
However, not all families can afford Catholic school tuition. Many students, like Ayita, need financial assistance to attend these life-changing schools.
That’s where the Fulcrum Foundation comes in. Fulcrum believes an excellent education should be accessible to all students who seek it. For the past 20 years, Fulcrum has increased access to Catholic schools in Western Washington by providing financial assistance to students like Ayita. Fulcrum helps students of all races, genders, abilities, cultures, faiths, sexual orientations, and backgrounds.
“Without the grant from the Fulcrum Foundation, I don’t know if I would have attended the same schools,” said Ayita. “My education gave me structure and opened up my eyes to the possibilities of what I could achieve.”
Ayita graduated from Bishop Blanchet High School in 2018 and attended Western Washington University. “I want to do something that makes a positive impact on the people I work with and affords me the stability to help those around me,” said Ayita. She currently teaches English abroad and plans to attend graduate school to study speech-language pathology.
Since its founding in 2002, Fulcrum has disbursed over $72.3 million in funds to Catholic schools, students, and families. Fulcrum awarded over $4.6 million in pandemic relief during 2020-2021, helping families meet tuition payments, funding new technology to keep students and teachers connected, and providing personal protective equipment to keep all members of the school community safe.
Fulcrum works especially hard to serve the students furthest from educational justice. For example, in 2020, Fulcrum established the Becraft Scholars Program. Created in partnership with the Ferry Family Charitable Foundation, Becraft Scholars is an equity-based, relationship-centered scholarship program that prioritizes Black and African-American families. The landmark program supports cohorts of students with an annual scholarship from kindergarten through eighth grade.
“This is our work, this is our mission,” said Alana Bell, director of the Becraft Scholars Program. “Catholic education is supposed to serve those furthest from educational justice. So, at the heart of our program, we are living and walking the mission of Catholic education. And then in our community, this is an opportunity for everyone to be a part of the Becraft family, to invest in our community. And if we are not going to do it, who will?”
The Becraft Scholars Program works with Catholic schools in Western Washington to create a culture of belonging for all students. Fulcrum engages with school communities and hopes to affect change at a system-wide level as the program continues to grow.
“We know that when those kids complete eighth grade and go off to a Catholic high school and then go off to college, they are going to be a game-changer in our world,” Alana said.