Sponsoring Low-income Children in Catholic Schools

  • Religion
  • 1986

When Catholic schools serving poor children in New York City were in danger of shutting down for lack of tuition-paying capacity on the part of parents, banker and longtime donor Peter Flanigan sprang into action. He established a Patrons Program that encouraged contributions to financially stressed inner-city Catholic elementary schools. And he set up Student Sponsor Partners to connect donors directly with at-risk kids who needed mentors and financial sponsors in order to attend Catholic schools.

In the first year of Student Sponsor Partners, Flanigan and 44 other men and women backed 45 students. Within a few years the program was serving 1,000 students annually. In 2001, supporter David Dunn began giving $500,000 per year, then $750,000 per year to support students, and in 2008 SSP received its first million-dollar gifts.

In 2014, more than 1,400 children attended 25 Catholic schools around New York City thanks to Student Sponsor Partners. Fully 85 percent of SSP students graduate from high school, compared to 61 percent of their peers in public schools, and 93 percent of graduates go on to college (versus 50 percent of NYC public high school grads). The Student Sponsor Partners program has now been copied in nine other cities, including Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C.

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