Sacred Heart Catholic School, Oklahoma City
At Sacred Heart Catholic School in Oklahoma City, Principal Joana Camacho has seen tremendous success in boosting enrollment since making a concerted effort to reach out to the Latino community. After attending the ACE Summer Forum on Recruiting Latino Children to Catholic Schools in 2010, she returned to Sacred Heart Parish eager to get to work and enlisted the help of the clergy to generate interest in the parish school. The following is her account of some of the successes along the way.
In 2010, we had three new priests and a very dynamic pastor. In one weekend, I spoke at all nine masses at Sacred Heart Parish (two in English and seven in Spanish). It was a wonderful experience. The pastor and the two associates gave a short homily and then I got up to do my "speech". After I spoke, the priests shared a positive and inspiring endorsement of the school. In fact, it almost made me want to have more kids so that they could attend Sacred Heart! The results from that initial effort to spread the word about our school have been amazing. People started coming to the school that Monday, quoting some of the things the priests and I had said, and most importantly, wanting to enroll their children. The week before, we had had 124 students enrolled and not a single inquiry. By Thursday that week, I was at the school until 8:15 P.M. enrolling students. By Tuesday the following week, we were up to 149 students! 20 of the 25 are a direct result of the weekend push for enrollment, but more continue to come and inquire, completing financial assistance applications. After our initial enrollment surge, we adjusted our goal for the start of the school year from 140 to 155+. We ended up starting the school year with 174 students! And what a celebration we had.
Our pastor, Fr. Roberto Quant, participates in doing tours with me to prospective families, and we work together as a team quite well. People certainly love the personal touch of his time. All three priests are extremely supportive of the school in both words and action. I cannot overstate how tremendous a difference this has made!
As far as finances go, we believe that a student paying 50 or 60 percent of the cost of tuition is better than an empty seat. We also offer the Sacred Heart parishioner rate to other parishes without schools. They too can apply for tuition assistance. One mother became very emotional after finding out that she would be able to afford to send her children to Sacred Heart School with the financial assistance offered. She was so proud, happy, and relieved that her three children would be attending an excellent Catholic school!
When we first took on this initiative, it really gave our school new life. I have fallen in love with my ministry at SHCS all over again, and it is such a wonderful feeling. Although the following year we saw a drop in enrollment, our belief in this mission was not shaken and we continued our efforts. Most importantly, we continued to provide an excellent education for our children in a safe, orderly, and nurturing environment.
Our efforts paid off as we began the following and current school year with 191 students – an increase of 40 students. This is the largest enrollment we have had in my ten years at Sacred Heart. An essential key to our recent success has been our ability to utilize word-of-mouth advertising as a marketing tool. Current families have started asking about enrollment for the 2013-2014 school year, wanting to be sure their children and younger siblings get in, and we have many new families inquiring. I have started a list of new families who want to enroll for next year when open enrollment begins February 1st.
We have also increased our class size to a maximum of 22 to meet the demand for enrollment, with one class at 23. Our maximum enrollment is 212, which we continue to strive for; but it is encouraging to see that which I have been praying for come to fruition.