As the geographic footprint of the Latino Enrollment Institute (LEI) expands, many Catholic schools in never-before-represented dioceses now serve as models of transformation and growth with regards to Latino outreach. The three Catholic schools from the Diocese of Little Rock that attended the LEI in the summer of 2016 are one such example. St. Theresa, Immaculate Conception, and St. Vincent de Paul Schools in Little Rock, Fort Smith, and Rogers, Arkansas, respectively, were the first to represent their diocese at the LEI and all experienced notable increases in both overall and Latino enrollment in a relatively short time.
The state of Arkansas, although it falls outside of even the top half of U.S. states in Latino population as a percentage of total state population, is a seemingly ideal environment for the recruitment of Latino families to Catholic schools as it ranks sixth in Latino population growth between 2000 and 2014. The three Diocese of Little Rock schools that attended the LEI last summer validated this assumption by welcoming nearly 100 new Latino students – a 50 percent increase – across the three schools by the start of the academic year.
To see such an impact in enrollment so shortly after attending the LEI, especially in three schools from a previously unrepresented diocese, is actually quite rare. And whether it be attributed to demographics, the school leaders themselves, or the LEI – all of which undoubtedly had a hand in this recent growth – they also serve as a testament to one simple lesson that we’ve seen time and time again in LEI schools across the country: It’s all about relationships.