In the ever-evolving tapestry of life, education stands as a beacon of hope and a powerful catalyst for change. It is a pathway to a brighter future, not only for individuals but for entire communities. The transformative power of education knows no bounds, as exemplified by the inspiring journey of recent Notre Dame of Maryland graduate Carlos Amador. With unwavering determination, Carlos and his younger sister Riccy overcame immense odds after immigrating to Baltimore City from Honduras in 2006, all thanks to the Partners in Excellence Scholarship Program (PIE).

Launched in 1996, the Partners in Excellence (PIE) Scholarship Program was born from the profound belief that every child, regardless of their socioeconomic background, deserves access to education. By leveling the playing field for the most disadvantaged, these scholarships can uplift entire families, creating a ripple effect that contributes to the betterment of the entire city. “It’s not just that you’re giving a student a scholarship, you’re giving a family a scholarship. And that family is part of an overall community,” emphasizes Whit Harvey, a PIE donor, and CEO and Owner of Whit Harvey Group.

PIE Scholarships are a lifeline for the neediest families in Baltimore City, addressing an urgent community need. For many, a strong Catholic education represents a beacon of hope and a bridge out of inner-city poverty. Riccy Amador, who attended Archbishop Borders School and graduated from Cristo Rey High School and Loyola University Maryland, attests to the transformative impact of her Catholic education through PIE. “Without the scholarships and financial assistance, I received to make my Catholic education possible, I would not have felt prepared and capable of going beyond my own limits,” says Riccy.

The PIE Scholarship program is a collaborative effort co-sponsored by the Archdiocese, with contributions pouring in from over 400 philanthropies, corporations, and individual donors, including The Whiting-Turner Contracting Company, M&T Bank, T. Rowe Price Foundation, Constellation, PNC, and many others. Over its history, PIE has awarded more than 29,000 scholarships, totaling more than thirty-nine million dollars in tuition aid to Baltimore City students. In the most recent school year, 631 students received assistance, totaling more than $1.2 million. It’s worth noting that the scholarships are open to all, irrespective of faith, with more than 70% of scholarship recipients not being Catholic.

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For Riccy Amador, a pivotal moment came when her eighth-grade teacher at Archbishop Borders encouraged her to volunteer at a Saturday fair organized by the school. This experience ignited her passion for community service and the empowerment of immigrants in Baltimore City. With a Bachelor of Arts degree in sociology, Riccy is now on a path to becoming an immigration lawyer, working in the Baltimore County Executive’s Office to assist immigrants with limited English skills. “None of that would have been possible without that one Saturday afternoon. I was able to make that spark sparkle more,” she says.

Cardinal Shehan School students perform at Baltimore Ravens game

Stories like Riccy’s are commonplace among PIE scholars, who often graduate with a deep commitment to giving back to their community. For Riccy’s brother Carlos Amador, being a PIE Scholar meant not only gaining an education but also a sense of purpose. “Something my mom always told me is that a title doesn’t make a person better; it’s what you do with it. I hope to give back what’s been given to me.”

To qualify for assistance through PIE, Baltimore City students must come from families with an annual household income of less than $80,000. Families are required to contribute at least 25% of tuition costs to foster an investment in their children’s education. Funding priority is given to PIE Scholars from the previous year to ensure continuity and stability.

PIE’s commitment to providing education to marginalized students has yielded substantial benefits. Research demonstrates that at-risk youth improve their chances of graduating from college when exposed to early Catholic education. In fact, an African-American or Latino child is 42% more likely to graduate from high school and two-and-a-half times more likely to graduate from college if they attend a Catholic school.

At the heart of PIE’s mission lies the unwavering belief that no family seeking a first-rate education for their child should be turned away due to financial constraints. For families like the Amadors’ and countless others, access to Catholic education has been nothing short of life-changing. Carlos Amador eloquently reflects on the impact of his education, stating, “My first day of wanting to be someone better, a better person, an educated person, started here.”

Elevate Education. Elevate Our City. With the PIE Scholarship Program, these words become a reality, breaking the chains of poverty and ushering in a brighter future for Baltimore City and its residents. Education is the cornerstone upon which dreams are built, and PIE is building dreams that have the power to uplift our entire community.

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