CINCINNATI -- The Catholic Inner-City Schools Education Fund has been one of the Queen City's best-kept secrets for nearly 40 years, according to executive director Mabe Rodriguez. She doesn't want it to be a secret anymore.
CISE has since 1980 provided the city's impoverished children with full-ride scholarships to eight Catholic schools in Greater Cincinnati. There, Rodriguez said, they have access to resources that can help them make long-term improvements to their own lives and the lives of their families.
"It focuses on getting people out of poverty," Rodriguez said. "If you feed me today, I'll be hungry tomorrow. If you give me an education, that'll be a sustainable impact for the community."
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The organization pays for 2,100 Cincinnati youth to attend school and receive packages of health, nutritious food for weekends and vacations, she said. Eighteen-year-old Clarke Jefferson is one of them.
"If I went to a bigger school, I probably would've been another student," said Jefferson, a Purcell Marian High School senior. "Here, I can be myself and I don't have to fake what I want to do every day. … I'm just going to school every day, doing something I'm supposed to do, and for somebody to see something in me -- it just made me feel good about myself."
CISE leaders want to give even more students the same opportunity, they said Wednesday. However, their organization is solely dependent on donations.
Rodriguez and others hope to raise $3 million by the end of January 2019 to expand CISE's reach and assist more low-income Cincinnati families.
"We want them to raise their horizons," St. Francis De Sales parish pastor Gene Contadino said. "Say, ‘I want to be a doctor, I want to be more than simply repeating the kind of failures I see around me every day.'"