Mentor principals have played a critical role in the success of the Latino Enrollment Institute (LEI) since the program’s inception in 2012. The experience, accountability, and personal attention that these leaders provide has been a defining characteristic of the LEI, helping Catholic school principals—and their teams— institute lasting changes.
After schools attend the LEI summer conference, mentor principals maintain regular contact with the 4-6 school leaders in their group through monthly video conference calls. These conversations, which focus on various themes related to Latino outreach, recruitment, and enrollment, are an opportunity for school leaders to learn from one another and receive real-time consultation and feedback from their mentor on some of the things that they’re doing in their school.
The commitment of our LEI mentors, most of whom are still active Catholic school principals themselves, is truly the engine that drives the LEI.
This month, we highlight one of those mentors, Robert LeGros, who serves as the principal of Cathedral School of Saint Mary in Austin, Texas.
What has been the biggest blessing of being part of the LEI for you and your school?
The biggest blessing has been the connection to Catholic school leaders across the nation. They have served as a resource, a sounding board, and a listening ear. It has been a blessing to know that we are not alone in our efforts to increase Latino enrollment and also engage parents and teachers at a deeper level. It is exciting to be part of something bigger than ourselves.
What is the best part of being a mentor?
The best part about being a mentor is the opportunity to give back that which was shared with me. As a principal who participated in the LEI, I learned many strategies that fostered our healthy enrollment. Now as a mentor, I am able to share that experience with other schools working to increase enrollment.
What do you like most about being a principal?
One of the many blessings that being a principal brings is the opportunity to walk the journey with families who have dreamed of giving their children a Catholic education but have not been able to make it a reality. As a principal, I am often in a position to help families find the resources to enroll their children in our school. It is such a joy to be part of this life-changing experience.
Tell us about the special Christmas treat your students get to participate in, and how it came about.
On Saint Nicholas Day, our students receive a candy cane in one of their shoes that they leave outside the classroom. The students have a great time hopping around the class in one shoe trying to look out the window to discover who is putting the candy cane in their other shoe.
While the students enjoy this campus event, they are also taught the spirit of giving as they take time to Christmas carol around the business community. This tradition started as our students were taught several traditional Christmas songs and then planned trips to local businesses, banks, and hotels to carol to employees and customers. The children have a great time bringing the Christmas spirit to the downtown area and employees and visitors are often amazed and filled with joy as they experience our talented smiling children in their Catholic school uniforms spreading the reason for the season, the birth of Christ. The employees of these businesses now anxiously await the kids’ arrival!
Before becoming a principal, what was the most unusual or interesting job you've ever had?
While taking a break from my undergraduate studies, I worked as a pest control technician for two years. In other words, I killed roaches!
What is the best place you've traveled to and why?
Ten years ago, my answer would have been the Vatican because I was able to view the Pieta. I had longed to see Michelangelo’s sculpture from an early age. Today, my answer is my parent’s home that is in Louisiana. Both of my 93-year-old parents are living and visiting them in their home always fills my heart with love, mercy, and joy.
Where is your hometown and what is one must-see there?
My hometown is Jennings, Louisiana. When visiting Jennings, one should be brave and adventurous and visit the Gator Chateau where guests are able to hold and pet baby alligators!
Tell us something that might surprise us about you.
It might surprise you to know that I was once held hostage at gunpoint by a Los Angeles gang while trying to feed homeless children in an abandoned building. This event took place one summer when working for Covenant House. My workmates and I were in the middle of feeding a group of children when the gang entered looking for a particular person. After about two hours of deep prayer and shaking knees, we were led out unharmed and never returned to that location.
If you won the lottery, what is the first thing you would do?
If I won the lottery, the first thing I would do is pinch myself to make sure that I was not sleeping. Ha! Next, I would thank God that I bought a ticket for the first time and then I would begin writing a list of all the ways I could put this wealth to good use to help those in need.
About Cathedral School of Saint Mary
Cathedral School of Saint Mary is an accredited private Catholic school located in the heart of downtown Austin. It was founded by the Sisters of the Holy Cross in 1866 and for more than 148 years has stood as a witness to the transformative effect of a Catholic education. The community of CSSM is as diverse as the city of Austin, serving families from more than 35 different zip codes throughout central Texas. Over the last 10 years, more than 95% of its graduates who have applied to some of the top private high schools in Austin have been accepted. This can be attributed to CSSM's strong, holistic approach to curriculum, fostering the spiritual, academic, and social development of each student. Cathedral School of Saint Mary offers a Classical program that maintains a balanced curriculum in accordance with the Principles and Standards for the Catholic Schools developed by the Texas Catholic Conference Education Department.
In the summer of 2014, Robert LeGros and a team from CSSM attended the Latino Enrollment Institute at the University of Notre Dame, seeking new ideas and strategies to reach out to the growing Latino population in their community. In just a short time, the school has experienced a remarkable enrollment surge, which has been almost entirely Latino.
If you're interested in learning how to recruit, enroll, and better serve Latino children in your school, as well as work with an incredible mentor like Robert LeGros, consider joining the LEI. Applications are open now!