Every year, St. Anthony School in Milwaukee holds an appeal to the community that focuses on a particular area of growth the school hopes to improve. As a school that serves 1,600 predominantly low-income students on Milwaukee’s south side, the annual appeal is a challenge even during the best years. However, when the COVID-19 pandemic descended in 2020, St. Anthony was met with a new host of problems.
Because many of the students lack access to technology at home, it was essential that the school provide Chromebooks and internet access to each of the students so that they could continue their mission of preparing their students for college and forming their faith even when they couldn’t be together in person. In roughly eight months, through individual donations, corporate donations and small grants, they raised $147,239 to help provide those necessities for their students. In the fall, the school announced that they’d been approved for a $10,000 grant from Friendship House of Milwaukee that helped them exceed their initial goal.
Haley Shaw, an eighth-grade English language arts teacher at the school, said, “The attendance and engagement levels at the middle school level were high. It has been exciting to embrace technology to use different websites and applications for students to learn electronically.”
Along with connecting with their teachers and classmates daily, students at St. Anthony have been able to connect with more regularly scheduled faith-based programming, like daily religion classes and weekly network-wide virtual Mass. Being able to use and get comfortable with technology that many haven’t had the opportunity to engage with before will go a long way in teaching the children the skills they’ll need as they further their education and enter the workforce.
As part of their annual appeal in January, the school announced plans to unify the middle and high school campuses for the 2022-23 school year. The project will enable St. Anthony High School to expand their enrollment and academic offerings through newly renovated classrooms, by furthering their athletic programs and community partnerships with new facilities, and help them grow spiritually through a communal space for worship. The school estimates that they will save more than $584,000 in leasing, utility and maintenance costs every year. Those savings will go toward building renovations.
One of the largest renovations will take place in the school’s Early Childhood Education Center, with the installation of a permanent playground that will provide the 83 preschool students with high-sensory, gross motor learning opportunities. The Early Childhood Education Center is one of the most prestigious in the city, rated five-stars by YoungStar, Wisconsin’s Child Care Quality Rating and Improvement System. It’s a rating given to only 8 percent of the 1,018 child care centers in Milwaukee. As St. Anthony School made the location of the Early Childhood Education Center permanent this year with the purchase of its building and surrounding property, it was among one of the top priorities of the school to expand the children’s outdoor play and exploration area. In October, the school was awarded $48,829 from the Greater Milwaukee Foundation to complete renovations at the Early Childhood Education Center to help continue the growth of a program that continues to increase enrollment every year.
Dr. Rosana Mateo, president of St. Anthony School, said, “I am proud to represent St. Anthony School. All of the advancements that we have made will enhance our organization’s future success for the people that matter most: our students, staff, and community.”