Annual Gaudeamus event raises over $1 million for scholarships

From left, Selina Valdivieso, Michaela Valdivieso and Ashley Espana-Lopez, all students of Christ the King School in Kansas City, Kansas, pass out programs to the Gaudeamus attendees. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE CATHOLIC EDUCATION FOUNDATION

by Jill Ragar Esfeld
jill.esfeld@theleaven.org

OVERLAND PARK — When Bishop Ward senior Yaneli Jacinto took the stage at this year’s Gaudeamus event here, she talked passionately about the sacrifices her family had made so she and her brother could have a Catholic education.

“This is why receiving a [Catholic Education Foundation] scholarship was a big blessing to my family,” she said. “It lightened the load for my mother and enabled me to participate in the many extracurricular activities that Bishop Ward has to offer.”

Indeed, Yaneli is active in the National Honor Society, the Academy of Finance and the Key Club. She has played a variety of sports and has served on the student council, including a term as president.

She has earned college credit through classes supported by Donnelly College in Kansas City, Kansas, and has great plans for her future.

“I want to go to a university and major in neuroscience,” she told the audience. “Then I hope to go to medical school to be a neurologist.”

Yaneli is the face of CEF, representing thousands of children whose lives have been changed by scholarships that allowed them to attend Catholic schools.

“In Catholic schools, the work was more challenging,” said Yaneli, who transferred to Resurrection Catholic School at the Cathedral in Kansas City, Kansas, when she was in fourth grade. “Now, I’m grateful.

“The more challenging the courses, the better they helped me prepare for the future.”

This year’s sold-out event, chaired by Pat and Shannon Lillis, had a record pledge amount totaling $1,143,457, so talented students like Yaneli can continue to benefit from a Catholic education.

A highlight of the evening’s festivities was the presentation of the Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann School of Excellence Award by Dr. Kathy O’Hara, superintendent of schools.

Yaneli’s alma mater, Resurrection Catholic School at the Cathedral, received the award for the fourth time.

In her acceptance, principal Lynda Higgins attributed the school’s excellence to the hard work and support of parents, staff and faculty.

The annual Angels Among Us Award was renamed this year in honor of Michael and Patty Morrisey, who served respectively as CEF executive director and director of events for 14 years.

“They left those roles last year,” said board chair Terry Sexton. “And the board of directors could not conceive of an award big enough to recognize their distinctive contributions to Catholic education and to this foundation in particular.

“And so, henceforth, our annual Angels Among Us Award will be known as the Michael and Patty Morrisey Angels Among Us Award.”

The first recipients of the newly christened award are Stan and Suzan Cramer.

Stan Cramer served as Gaudeamus master of ceremonies for eight years. 41 Action News anchor Christa Dubill took over those duties this year.

41 Action News also received the CEF Special Community Service Award for the support it has given CEF over the years.

Closing the event, the archbishop talked about how inspired he is during his frequent visits to archdiocesan Catholic schools.

He noted the teachers’ commitment to grow in their own faith life and to share that faith with students so they not only believe in God, but know that God loves them individually.

“So that no matter what happens to them in life,” he said, “they’ll have that inner strength and that capacity for joy and peace, even in the midst of the challenges of this world.”

He reminded the audience that our true goal isn’t just to get kids in college, “but to get them to heaven.”

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