A Commitment to Diversity: First Racially-Integrated School in South Carolina Continues its Legacy through Latino Outreach
By Manuel Fernandez | Program Director, Latino Enrollment Institute
Aug. 23, 2017
Every school has a story to tell.
Throughout the six-year history of the Latino Enrollment Institute (LEI), we have seen Catholic school principals from all over the country come to the LEI in the hopes of transforming their schools, and in essence, change their school’s story. Some schools are near closing and desperately need to increase enrollment quickly. Other schools already have a large Latino population and simply want to start serving them better. And still schools see their neighborhoods, their country, and the Church changing and want to be proactive in making sure their school is ready for this inevitable change.
When Shaileen Riginos of St. Anne Catholic School in Rock Hill, South Carolina, applied to the LEI in the summer of 2015, she asked herself, “What do I want our school story to be?” Their enrollment was healthy, their finances were in order, and parents were happy with the direction of the school. But one major area gnawed at her. Despite the fact that St. Anne’s parish was 28 percent Latino, there were very few Latinos enrolled in the school. With the cost of tuition, attracting low-income families was proving to be difficult.
Shaileen also had a legacy to fulfill. St. Anne had been a leader in diversity since its inception in 1951, when just three years after opening it became the first racially integrated school in South Carolina. It was important for Shaileen to continue St. Anne’s legacy of being a welcoming community to people of all ethnicities and backgrounds.
As it turns out, coming to the LEI turned out to be a godsend for not only her school, but Shaileen as well. “The LEI opened my eyes to the needs of Catholic schools nationwide and of our own school here in Rock Hill, and one of the most significant ways we can help not only Catholic schools and the Church, but even more importantly, Latino children and families, was to get them into our schools. And I knew at that point that St. Anne needed to do that.”
St. Anne is blessed to have an extremely supportive pastor, Father Fabio Refosco. Father Fabio wanted to begin right away, but he wanted to do it right, in a way that would serve the needs of his community and his school. He and Shaileen decided to start small. Because of the cost of tuition, he knew he would need to find enough scholarship money to serve the needs of low-income families. Displaying a keen business sense, Father Fabio found enough scholarship money to offer financial assistance to active Latino parishioners seeking a Catholic education.
On her end, Shaileen got to work immediately. Using the strategies she learned from her time at the LEI, she reached out to theLatino community and found many families excited at the prospect of joining such a faith-filled school. Her staff immediately bought in and welcomed their new families with open arms.
“I received no pushback whatsoever from my staff. Everything happened so naturally. It was a beautiful thing to watch unfold.”
As a result of all of the hard work of Fr. Fabio, Shaileen, and her staff, St. Anne has seen the diversity of her school increase exponentially. St. Anne went from eighteen Latino students before attending the LEI to forty-five Latino students today. And the school’s Latino students come from all over globe: Spain, Peru, Honduras, Nicaragua, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, and Mexico, showing strength in diversity even within the Latino community.
Shaileen now knows St. Anne’s story. It is a story of faith, love, growth, and not insignificantly, a true commitment to diversity. It has been that way since 1954 when, against intense outside pressure to remain segregated, St. Anne’s opened its doors to five African-American children from a nearby parish. And it carries on today as St. Anne welcomes families from countries such as Vietnam, China, Spain, Mexico, Germany, India, and many more.
“Our diversity is a major strength. Coming to the LEI helped us expand that. Helping our Latino families and our low-income families is honestly the BEST part of my job. The parents have been so incredibly appreciative of the gifts our school gives them, but they don’t realize that we are the blessed ones to be able to work with them. Those are the moments when I know that Catholic education makes a difference!”
A wonderful story indeed.
Our high school students have been very busy this summer! Summer adventures have included a mission trip to Ecuador, sailing lessons at Camp Seagull, visiting Pope Francis, starring in performances with the Children’s Theater of Charlotte, art classes with a grandparent, studying genetic treatments for hemophilia at the University of Pennsylvania, mission work in Fayetteville, NC, and much, much more. We are so proud of our students!
A big THANK YOU to Dr. Jerry M. James for providing a fantastic professional development opportunity for St. Anne faculty this summer! Dr. James is the Director of Teaching and Learning at the Center for Arts Education in New York city. Dr. James conducted a workshop at St. Anne on the use of creativity in reaching children. Dr. James has an MFA in Visual Arts from Yale and a doctorate in Education from Columbia University. He’s also a very talented painter and musician (blues guitarist)!
As part of the JPG Guest artist program, Shakespeare Under the Stars campers had the opportunity to work with Professor Laura Rikard! We were honored to host Professor Rikard, who has taught at Brown University, is currently an Assistant Professor at University of Miami, and teaches commedia dell’arte in Italy in the summers. An accomplished performer as well, Professor Rikard has performed at Carnegie Hall and on stage with Sir Paul McCartney. She lead a fantastic workshop on the Italian physical comedy that influenced Shakespeare’s comedies.
This year’s Nun Run will be held on Saturday, September 16th from 8AM – 11:30AM.
Our third annual Nun Run benefits ALL students at St. Anne School. It is a morning of friendship and fellowship that continues our efforts to help raise funds needed to support tuition assistance, technology advancement, STEM equipment, and much more! *** Remember to register before September 1st for a guaranteed Race T-Shirt!
It’s more than a 5K. It’s a race to support our students!
We are so proud of rising 11th grader, Alex Riginos! Alex was selected to serve as a Teen Advisor for Girl Up and spent a week in Washington D.C. at the 2017 Girl Up Leadership Summit this summer. While in D.C., Alex had the opportunity to work with other Girl Up Teen Advisors from all over the world and was able to lobby at the capitol for a day. Way to go, Alex!
We are excited to announce that we have received the final blessing from the Diocese of Charleston to relocate St. Anne High School to the beautiful St. Philip Neri campus in Fort Mill. St. Philip Neri has agreed to continue this partnership until a permanent arrangement is made to meet the needs of K3-12. Bishop Gugliemone, in his ongoing support of the revitalization of Catholic education, has also granted permission for a study to be conducted to determine the most effective growth plan for Catholic education in our Deanery (York County). The Bishop writes, “I am excited to hear of the continued success of St. Anne School and look forward to working together as the project progresses. In the meantime, I will keep the faithful of St. Anne and St. Philip Neri in my prayers”.