Juliana’s mom, Julie, describes her daughter as sweet, fun-loving, adores school and friends, enjoys team gymnastics, and loves snuggling up to watch movies. Juliana is one of Julie and Devon Pokersnik’s four children and their only daughter. The three youngest children are enrolled at St. Gabriel School, a community that Julie describes as “a closeknit family.”
At the beginning of the 2020-21 school year, the Pokersniks received excellent news. Because of the generosity of donors attending the 2019 Alleluia Ball, a new tuition assistance program named Fund A Dream was established, and Juliana would be a beneficiary of substantial aid generated from that initiative. The tuition assistance could not have come at a better time since mom, Julie, had recently decided to pursue additional education herself in order to advance her career in the healthcare field.
“Our oldest son had attended public schools; however, when we moved to St. Gabriel Parish, we met other families who had children in the parish school, and we thought we would give it a try,” says Julie. “What we found there was an excellent education for our children in a very loving, Catholic-centered way. We also found the teachers and staff to be amazing. Once we decided to enroll the children at St. Gabriel School, we never looked back.”
Julie explains that as new parents to the school, they were matched with an ambassador family. The family extended a warm welcome to the Pokersniks. “It was amazing to us that so many people took time and were willing to help others. Now, people are continuing to help us with tuition assistance.”
The Fund A Dream initiative provides $2,500 in tuition assistance directly from a donor to a student. Throughout the school year, donors receive communications from their students as well as an end-of-the-year progress update from school principals. During the program’s inaugural year, Fund A Dream benefited a total of 66 students in 11 Catholic schools. With tuition averaging $5,087 across the diocese, the $2,500 Fund A Dream aid cut a student’s tuition costs nearly in half.
“Fund A Dream has been beneficial to families, especially those who are paying tuition for more than one student in the school.” says St. Gabriel School principal Robert Kumazec. “Our entire school community is very grateful to all of the sponsors for their abundant generosity. They are a great example of showing Christ’s love to others through stewardship.”
MEETING THEIR STUDENT
On a beautiful day in May, Ron and Janet Hess sat patiently in aconference room at St. Gabriel School, waiting to meet Juliana,the student they sponsored through Fund A Dream. The bright and cheerful third-grader entered the room and spoke to Ronand Janet, explaining the math game she played on an interactive whiteboard with her third-grade classmates. Similar interactions with students have inspired the Hess’s support of Catholic education. “As we walked into the Alleluia Ball a fewyears ago, we were greeted by Catholic school students. Meeting those students makes you want to do what you can,” says Janet.
A year later, Ron joined more than 120 other participants at the Bishop’s Golf Classic, another event supporting tuition assistance for area Catholic school students. “At the golf outing, Bishop Malesic spoke about the significance of Catholic schools and the impact it makes on children and the community.” “We are firm believers in education. We’ve witnessed what education has done in the lives of so many young people. As people are educated, a lot of society’s ills go away,” says Ron.
In the Diocese of Cleveland, 107 Catholic schools are educating 35,654 students. During the 2020-2021 school year, $3.3 million in diocesan tuition assistance was provided to more than 4,000 students, thanks to the generosity of many benefactors. Because of its impact, Fund A Dream is here to stay. Once again, the initiative will be central to the support garnered at the upcoming Alleluia Ball on March 26, 2022.
Julie thinks about how vital tuition assistance and Fund A Dream have been to her family’s desire to educate their children in Catholic schools. She expresses her deep gratitude: “We could not be more thankful to people who see the importance of Catholic education and are willing to make a personal sacrifice to help other people’s children. In our current situation, we could not make this work without help from others.”
To Ron and Janet Hess, Julie says: “Thank you so very much, from the bottom of our hearts – our whole family. We truly appreciate your contribution and sacrifice for the benefit of our children.”
To provide personal support to a student through Fund A Dream, contact Mary Lou Ozimek, 216-696-6525 x4070, firstname.lastname@example.org.