WHILE THE SCHOOL YEAR MAY BE ENDING, it doesn’t mean education should be put on the backburner. In an ideal world, every child would have access to challenging academic experiences and the educational resources necessary for success. However, due to socioeconomic factors, quality education is often not guaranteed for many children in our community. The Today and Tomorrow Educational Foundation is dedicated to providing local families freedom of educational choice, so every child can achieve their academic, civic and economic goals. For more than 30 years, the nonprofit has provided scholarships so students can attend private or parochial schools that will better serve them.
“Poverty is pervasive in St. Louis, and sadly, it’s placing way too many children behind the educational starting line,” executive director Julie Soffner says. “Simply based on where they live, a student may not have access to a school that matches their needs and offers the tools needed to unlock their potential. We offer scholarships and financial assistance to make better education possible.” While TTEF is a Catholic organization, it offers scholarships to all families, regardless of religious affiliation. Parents select a private or parochial school that will best serve their children but is beyond their financial reach, and the nonprofit awards a need-based scholarship to make it achievable.
The success of TTEF’s work can be seen in the numbers: 100% of students make it to eighth grade graduation, 89% are enrolled in a college prep high school, 99% complete their secondary education and 87% go on to attend a postsecondary institution, according to Soffner. “We provide an educational foundation so scholars can move forward and improve their lives,” she says. “When we help a student enroll in school, we are making a nine-year commitment to them, from kindergarten to grade eight. To make this possible, we rely on community support in so many ways—whether its donations or helping the amazing schools we partner with.”
The pandemic has increased the need for TTEF’s services. “The families that require financial assistance are disproportionately struggling because of the difficulty to rebound and navigate emerging economic challenges,” Soffner notes. “Not only is there increased inflation, but many of these parents work in some of the hardest hit industries. We may be emerging from the pandemic, but we’ll be feeling the residual impact for years to come. Scholarships have never meant more than they do now.” The organization has also seen area schools struggling with the challenges of COVID-19, including an increased reliance on donors to continue to serve families and provide the technology necessary for remote learning.
Every year, TTEF helps more than 5,500 children attend a school that works for them, and raising the money to help fund the next school year is critical during the summer. “St. Louis is so generous in helping students achieve their potential,” Soffner says. “Since our inception, we have raised more than $175 million in need-based tuition. We are helping to reduce poverty, boost the local economy and allow these kids to change their future. Every child deserves a chance, and we’re that chance for many in St. Louis.”