Increasing School Enrollments through the LEI
By: Melissa Pavloff
The Latino Enrollment Institute (LEI), part of the Alliance for Catholic Education’s Catholic School Advantage, is a collaborative initiative in which Catholic schools seek to engage and serve Latino communities.
Each summer, school leaders gather at the University of Notre Dame for a four-day conference where they discuss the best ways to engage with Latino communities and support Latino students in the classroom. Each participant is invited to bring a faculty member and their school pastor with them to campus.
Daniel Stringer, a 2018 LEI participant and school leader of Immaculate Conception School in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, reflected positively upon his experiences at the summer institute.
“The whole package was commendable,” Stringer said. “It was exactly what I expected of Notre Dame.”
Mary Lou Toler, school leader of Metro Catholic School in the Diocese of Cleveland, appreciated the guidance she received from seasoned professionals during the conference.
“Hearing from principals who have actually turned around their schools is both inspiring as well as helpful because you know it can be done with effort and persistence. The methods are tried and true,” she said.
Both leaders commented on the crucial role the LEI played in increasing Latino enrollment in their respective schools, and Stringer attributed the jump in enrollment primarily to the experience of archdiocesan employee and former LEI participant Deanna Gonzalez.
“With Deanna’s support, we were able to increase enrollment by over 80 students from last year,” Stringer noted. This represents a 90-percent increase in Latino enrollment from the previous school year.
The LEI’s focus on engagement and inclusion often carries over to other groups of students as well. At Metro Catholic School, for example, the Sign of the Cross was taught in four different languages this year. Classrooms also featured diverse depictions of the Holy Family in an effort to make the Catholic message more relatable to various groups of students.
As the school engages with other community-wide initiatives, these efforts begin to extend far beyond campus. Such was the case for Toler.
“The LEI helped us reach out to Latino organizations in our community, including Esperanza, which is dedicated to offering college scholarships and higher education opportunities for children in the Cleveland area,” she said. “Partnering with them, we initially drew in 11 children, some from hurricane-devastated Puerto Rico.”
Following the summer institute, each LEI school leader is placed on a team of four or five other school leaders. Under the guidance of LEI mentors, these leaders communicate regularly throughout the school year to delve deeper into topics broached during the summer, while reflecting upon their progress in various engagement efforts.
Toler praised the dedication of her LEI mentors, noting their support during the ups and downs.
“I feel that I can talk about things I need help with without feeling like I am failing. This is hard but important work, and I reach out to them more than just our monthly calls,” she said.