By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — All Saints Catholic School is one of 91 schools featured on the Catholic Schools Advantage — Latino Enrollment Institute’s website. All Saints earned the honor because of a continued increase in enrollment, including Latino enrollment. The Institute is part of the University of Notre Dame.
Manuel Fernandez, the Latino Enrollment Institute’s program director, said part of his job is to find success stories regarding Catholic schools and Latino enrollment throughout the United States. While surfing the web, he came across a story about All Saints Catholic School written by The Catholic Messenger.
After viewing several schools in Iowa, he contacted each school to learn whether the enrollment increase was due to an influx of Latino students. All Saints Principal Jeanne Von Feldt responded to Fernandez that part of the school’s growth was due to an increase in Latino students.
“I knew her school was a perfect fit for the map,” he said. “I invited her to view the map and have her school become a part of it. She excitedly jumped at the chance.” All Saints in one of only two Catholic schools in Iowa featured by CSA.
Von Feldt provided statistics from the 2012-13, 2013-14 and 2014-15 academic years. In just two years the Latino enrollment jumped by 32 percent, she noted. “I attribute the growth of our enrollment and being diverse to our staff and parents who are our best ambassadors,” she said. “When people witness the quality education and the family atmosphere here they become our community advocates.”
Parent Juana Huizar sent her son Roberto to All Saints in sixth grade. “He did not want to come,” she said. But she wanted him to be able to talk about and learn more about his faith. After he started at All Saints he told his mom that he felt accepted and liked having God as part of his daily life. Roberto is now a senior at Assumption High School in Davenport. Huizar’s son Carlos started kindergarten at All Saints and is now a sixth-grader there. The mother serves on the school board as a representative of St. Mary Parish, Davenport.
Laurie Martinez has her daughter Carina enrolled in first grade at All Saints. “We learned about All Saints through a co-worker. I called the school and took a tour and this is our home. It’s a sense of family here.” Martinez said her husband attended the former Holy Trinity Catholic School in Davenport and she went to public schools. “He really wanted her to go to a Catholic school.” The family attends St. Mary Parish.
Huizar said when one of her sons was having trouble in class a teacher contacted her directly at home during the evening. “She had concerns about my son and we talked. She didn’t have to do that. She deserves her evenings, too.” But Huizar appreciated the call and worked with her son and the school to address his grades. Martinez said her daughter attended a three-week summer school program at All Saints for one-hour sessions. “It was an awesome way to get her caught up to her peers.”
Von Feldt said the school celebrates its diversity. It has high expectations, good education and good behavior. “We’re not perfect, but we are always trying to improve ourselves.” Second-grade teacher Margaret Wahl said she promotes All Saints all the time — even at sporting events. “I was a parent first, then a teacher here,” she said.
Fernandez said, “The sad reality is too many Catholic schools are closing. That’s pretty much all we hear about. But there are also a lot of great things happening in Catholic schools all over the country. And here at the CSA, we want to publicize all the good news that is happening enrollment-wise at Catholic schools with a particular emphasis on Latino enrollment.”
Von Feldt plans to apply to attend a summer institute hosted by CSA-Latin Enrollment Institute. If selected, she and a team of two others would learn how to recruit Latino families and ensure that they feel welcome and comfortable.
To see the Catholic schools with increased Latino enrollment in the U.S., visit https://ace.nd. edu/catholic-school-latino-enrollment-growth-map.To learn more about All Saints, visit www.ascsdav.org.