Success story inspires The Cardinal’s Circle member to help others do the same

February 11, 2020

The Cardinal’s Circle provides tuition and payroll assistance for students and teachers at Our Lady of Fatima Catholic School, one of 12 Inner City Catholic Schools. (Photo courtesy of the Development Office)

HOUSTON — The mission of The Cardinal’s Circle is to help Inner City Catholic Schools maintain a standard of academic excellence in curriculum and staff, and provide tuition assistance required by a large portion of their student population. To some, becoming part of the organization is an opportunity to help students. For others, it’s an opportunity to give back for the opportunities they were given.

Through an annual contribution of $5,000, members invest in the lives of students at the Inner City Catholic Schools, which provide opportunities for urban children and their families faced with incredible financial challenges. 

“The donations from The Cardinal’s Circle have truly impacted our school/students via tuition assistance and payroll assistance,” said Khanh Pham, principal at Our Lady of Fatima Catholic School in Galena Park. “Overall, 40% of our students benefited from tuition assistance in the first semester. Without this donation, our parents would not be able to afford or give the gift of Catholic education to their children. In addition, a successful school needs to have amazing and exceptional teachers and staff. We are fortunate that the leftover amount is distributed toward payroll assistance.”

Pham said that without The Cardinal’s Circle, the 12 Inner City Catholic Schools would have difficulty providing technology, computers, playground equipment, payroll assistance, books and other materials needed to give students a proper education.

“Our plan is to continue to use the funds toward curriculum, books, resources, payroll assistance and tuition assistance,” he said.

Angelina Rangel, who graduated from Our Lady of Fatima Catholic School in 2018, said members of The Cardinal’s Circle make positive changes every day in Catholic schools.

“I learned to be a good leader. I was selected as the volleyball captain in middle school and this helped me with my communication and leadership skills, time management, and the importance of teamwork,” she said.

Rangel, who is currently a student at Cristo Rey Jesuit College Preparatory, said that, to her, a Catholic education “means that I was able to practice and learn about my faith every day and attend Mass regularly.”

Working towards her future, Rangel is currently interning at Minute Maid Park with the Houston Astros Organization while going to high school.

“My hope is to continue excelling in academics as I have received honors classes with a 4.06 GPA as a freshman,” she said. “I hope to study business and marketing in college and would love to continue working at Minute Maid Park to gain more knowledge of the working environment.”

It is this kind of success that attracted The Cardinal’s Circle member Tom Thibodeau to join the organization and encourage others, including his family, to do so.

“I am the product of Inner City Catholic schools in Lawrence, Massachusetts. We had five siblings in grade school at one time,” he said. “Myself and my two brothers were in high school at the same time. Central Catholic was an all boys school taught by the Marist Brothers. We were able to attend school because of financial aid.”

A five-year member, Thibodeau said he can trace his success “to the great teachers and education I and my siblings received at Inner City Catholic Schools. The nuns and brothers gave us a chance to succeed with the foundation of great education. They also planted the seeds... what are you going to do with the gifts you were given... grow them and give back.”

He said The Cardinal’s Circle is one of the ways he has to pay back for the nuns, brothers and priests that both educated him and deeply cared about him and his success. He encouraged his brother Tim to join and he has been a member for two years.

“My brother feels the same way,” he added. 

“Later this year, we will be establishing a scholarship to our old high school to help out someone else who just needs a break, the way we were given a break. It will be in the name of Brother Augustine, the finest teacher that we each had for 4 years.”

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