Calumet College of St. Joseph, Big Shoulders Fund, and the Gary diocese have formed a three-way partnership to help cover the tuition costs of students pursuing their teaching degrees. On Friday, January 27 Calumet College held its first Transition to Teaching reception, which simultaneously changed the lives of several students and demonstrated the positivity of partnership.
“The more we pool our resources and the more we move in a common direction, the better. We don’t have unlimited funding and neither does the diocese or Calumet College, but if we all come together with a common purpose great things can happen, and that is on display this evening,” said Dan Kozlowski, managing director of Big Shoulders Fund Northwest Indiana.
The evening started off with laughter and hugs as people greeted old friends and introduced themselves to new ones. Once everyone got settled, leaders from Calumet College, Big Shoulders Fund, and the Gary diocese spoke about how the scholarship fund got started.
Originally, Dr. Amy McCormack approached Big Shoulders Fund about partnering on a scholarship fund for Calumet College’s Transition to Teaching Program. Big Shoulders Fund thought it was a great idea, and reached out to the Gary diocese to see if they’d like to be included as well. In the end, everybody was on board to help these young students and make their first years of teaching a bit easier.
“Teacher wages aren’t exactly off the charts, so if there’s a way we can help some of these students go into their jobs without student loans and alleviate some of that pressure on their early years when they’re teaching, it means a whole lot,” said Johnny Craig, senior vice president for enrollment, marketing, and athletics at Calumet College.
Craig spoke about how everyone worked so well together, and how it truly was a great partnership from the start.
“Catholic schools all the way from grade school to colleges like Calumet College have that all hands on deck feel where everybody gets involved. So, it was just a perfect fit to partner with the diocese and Big Shoulders Fund to help support students that want to teach a Catholic education,” said Craig.
All three organizations ended up donating $150,000 to the scholarship fund. Ten students received scholarships this semester, and a second cohort of students will receive scholarships this coming fall. The current plan is to continue awarding scholarships for the next three years.
All students who receive a scholarship will have to return and work at one of the Catholic schools in Gary for at least 3 years. Dr. Joseph Majchrowicz, superintendent of schools for the Catholic Diocese of Gary, talked about how much this means to the diocese, especially with the teacher shortage.
“There’s a huge teacher shortage, especially in Catholic schools. So, any opportunity to create a pool of teachers is wonderful. At one point we had 50 to 60 new teachers, which is the most we’ve ever had at one time which is crazy. So, to have that in-house pool of students through the scholarship program and the Transition to Teaching Program is just a wonderful opportunity for us,” said Dr. Majchrowicz.
After the leaders spoke about their partnership, everyone sat down to enjoy some delicious food. As people finished their meals a couple of scholarship recipients came forward to thank everyone and share their stories with the room. It was touching to hear how these scholarships have changed these students’ lives.
“Thank you for your generosity in giving me this scholarship, which has allowed me to come to school and finish my job in elementary education. If it weren’t for this scholarship, I wouldn’t be able to attend. I’m now able to complete my dream of becoming a teacher, something I’ve dreamt of since I was five years old,” said Jennifer Castillo, scholarship recipient.
These scholarships may have a huge impact on these students’ lives now, but all three organizations emphasized that the impact will never stop. The goal is to keep helping these students throughout their careers to ensure their continued success.
“We’re very fortunate to partner with Calumet College and help the students not just by awarding them scholarships, but by helping them out in the future as well. This is just the beginning of our relationship. We hope that we can continue to support them not just during the rest of their time in this program but in their careers,” said Kozlowski.
Everyone involved in making these wonderful scholarships possible was grateful to have the opportunity to work with one another. However, everyone agreed that the people who deserve the most thanks are the teachers.
“I want to thank our teachers. We don’t give enough thanks to our teachers as a society for all the work they do. The work they do is instrumental in teaching our youth and preparing the next generation, so whenever we can do something to support them it’s always a great day,” said Kozlowski.
The night represented so many wonderful things. It represented the hard work and passion of students fearlessly pursuing their goals, it represented the hopeful future of a new generation of teachers, and, most importantly, it represented the good that can come from teamwork.
“It’s a celebration of student success, but it’s also an acknowledgment of what teamwork looks like and the wonderful things that can happen when groups come together for a common goal,” said Craig.
To learn more about Calumet College of St. Joseph, visit https://www.ccsj.edu/. To learn more about Big Shoulders Fund, visit https://bigshouldersfund.org/.