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Sixth-grader Ximena Perez works to create a logo in art class Feb. 20 at Ss. Peter and Paul School in Omaha. Perez is among students at Ss. Peter and Paul and other Catholic schools whose family receives tuition assistance from the Children’s Scholarship Fund of Omaha. PHOTO BY JOE RUFF/STAFF

Parents grateful for scholarship fund

Zita Herrera’s gratitude runs deep when it comes to the Children’s Scholarship Fund (CSF) of Omaha. 
The nonprofit effort for students from low-income families in kindergarten through eighth grade helps her and her husband, Alfredo Jara, provide a Catholic education for their three children, something they feared was out of reach.
“I’m so glad that when my kids get to school, they see an image of Our Lady and a crucifix, which in public schools they aren’t going to find,” she said of their children attending Ss. Peter and Paul School in Omaha. “To me, that’s huge.”
And the fund is offering several help sessions in Omaha in coming weeks to make the application process every bit as accessible as the financial help, she said.
The sessions, each with assistance in Spanish and English, will be held March 21 at St. Thomas More School, April 11 at Sacred Heart School, April 17 at St. Pius X/St. Leo School and April 19 at Ss. Peter and Paul. 
CSF of Omaha also is accepting online scholarship applications through May 4.
“They make it easy for you,” said Herrera, a receptionist and parishioner at Assumption-Guadalupe Parish in Omaha. Because CSF explains every step, “I’m able to do (the application) at home with not much (of a) problem.”
Herrera’s three children – sixth-grader Emanuel, fifth-grader Emiliano and third-grader Osiris – prepared for and received their first Communion at Ss. Peter and Paul, events that hold special places in their mother’s heart. The boys also have played on youth basketball and baseball teams, and their father volunteers at the school. 
Herrera said CSF’s staffers were very helpful when she and her husband were ready to send Emanuel to kindergarten. 
“Right away, I thought it was going to be really tough if I had to pay the full tuition — but it wouldn’t hurt to ask,” said Herrera, who emigrated from Mexico to Omaha in 1994 and has been a U.S. citizen since 2004. “When (school officials) said there was a possibility of a (CSF) scholarship, it felt great.”
CSF’s service area matches the boundaries of the Archdiocese of Omaha, which served as the Omaha affiliate’s administrator until CSF opened its own office in 2011. Most of the fund’s students attend archdiocesan schools, though CSF also aids students at Protestant, Jewish and nonsectarian private schools.
Ties between CSF and the archdiocese remain close, said Joel Long, executive director of CSF Omaha, and Michael Ashton, superintendent of archdiocesan schools. For Catholic schools outside of the Omaha area in particular, “the Children’s Scholarship Fund can be the difference between the school sustaining or not sustaining its enrollment,” Ashton said.
Archdiocesan officials continue to participate in the Omaha affiliate’s annual CHANCE fundraising luncheon. Last June, Cardinal Blase J. Cupich of Chicago, a former Omaha priest, gave the keynote address. The date for this June’s luncheon hasn’t been set.
“From the beginning to the current day, they’ve been a staunch supporter,” Long said of the archdiocese. “It wouldn’t happen without them.”
WHAT: Children’s Scholarship Fund (CSF) of Omaha
HISTORY: Founded in New York City in 1998; the Omaha affiliate opened in 1999 and since then has awarded more than 33,000 scholarships in northeast Nebraska, worth $34 million.
THIS SCHOOL YEAR: More than 1,800 students are receiving CSF’s help in more than 80 Omaha and northeast Nebraska private or parochial schools.
ELIGIBLITY: Determined by family income guidelines similar to those for the National School Lunch Program. 
APPLY: Applications are taken online at, which features a video to help parents applying from home. Parents without computer access can apply at help sessions. 


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