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Added emphasis' on Eagles Gala in light of diocesan cuts

Mon, Oct 15th 2018 03:00 pm

Walsh, Southern Tier Catholic looking for even greater community support
By TOM DINKI, Olean Times Herald

OLEAN — The Eagles Gala Auction has always been critical to the financial health of Archbishop Walsh Academy and Southern Tier Catholic School. In past years, the formal event has raised as much as $150,000 for the small, private schools.

But with the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo cutting off Walsh’s $100,000 subsidy earlier this year, school officials admit next Saturday’s gala is all the more crucial.

“We have even more added emphasis on it this year,” said Principal and President Thomas Manko. “We got to do as much as we can.”

The diocese informed Walsh and five other Western New York private Catholic high schools in April that it will no longer subsidize them. One of the schools, Niagara Catholic Junior-Senior High School, closed in light of the cuts.

Walsh’s $100,000 subsidy represented 8 percent of the $1.19 million Walsh budget and 5 percent of the combined $2.05 million Walsh/Southern Tier Catholic budget, according to school officials, who reduced $70-80,000 from this school year’s budget with plans of fundraising the remaining $20-30,000.

The Oct. 20 gala in the school gymnasium, which will include dinner, drinks, a live auction and Las Vegas theme, should help. The events are typically attended by more than 200 people and usually get sponsorships from a host of local businesses.

School officials said support for the gala — from alumni to community members with no connection to the school — has only intensified in light of the subsidy cut.

“I think what’s different this year is that people are aware that this is important,” Manko said, “and if we want this school to remain vibrant and healthy for decades and years to come, we all got to pitch in.”

Director of Development Joe Sempolinski noted community members have shown support in a wide range of ways. Some have dropped off auction items like gift cards to local restaurants, while those with greater means have pledged greater financial support.

“We have people from all walks of life step up and say, ‘Hey, we want to make sure this (school is) available to our children here in Olean,’” Sempolinski said.

School officials feel they’re valued because they offer an educational alternative.

Walsh and Southern Tier Catholic are one of just a few private schools in the region. While boasting just 160 students, the schools offer the International Baccalaureate Programme for 11th and 12 graders, and are currently applying for IB’s Middle Years Programme, which is offered to 5th-10th graders.

And while only graduating 11 students last school year, those students earned more than $2 million in college scholarships.

“We have great public schools, no question about it,” Manko said, “but we offer things different that you might not be able to get in a public school.”

Manko said he feels the school will continue to provide those programs even without the diocesan subsidy, so long as there’s continued community support.

“Going forward we know what we have to prioritize and what we can live without,” he said. “We’ve got to tighten our belt a little bit, but we’re OK, and we have some major benefactors and they’re on board.”

The gala starts at 5:30 p.m. with appetizers, drinks and the opening of the silent auction areas spaced around the school. The dinner, catered by Brother’s Bistro, will be followed by the live auction. Prizes include a Las Vegas vacation package and Buffalo Sabres tickets.

Gala tickets are $75 and can be purchased at the school or online at stcswalsh.org.

(Contact reporter Tom Dinki at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter, @tomdinki)


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