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Community Leaders Support CISE Mission

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by Eileen Connelly, OSU

When Susan and Joseph Pichler relocated to Cincinnati for his work with the Kroger Corporation in 1987, they quickly became involved in supporting the Catholic school that Joe had a view from his downtown office window. That school was St. Francis Seraph, and it was the start of the couple’s steadfast and generous support of the Catholic Inner-City Schools Education (CISE) Fund, which works to transform the lives of urban children by providing access to a strong Catholic education.

“We’d always been interested in education, since Joe had been a college professor, and I have always been an avid reader and enjoyed working in schools, encouraging children to read,” Susan Pichler explained. She started a Junior Great Books program at St. Francis Seraph, and volunteered in the school library for 20 years. The couple has also co-chaired the annual CISE Campaign, and Susan is a current board member.

“I think the greatest thing about CISE is that the children learn well, learn to love God and love their neighbor,” she said. “Most of them are living in poverty and aren’t Catholic. Their parents appreciate the opportunity for them receive a good education at a religious-based school, where there is an emphasis on values and moral behavior. Everyone benefits from that.”

“The need is huge,” said Mabe Rodriguez, executive director of CISE. “CISE wants to impact more children and more schools. Thus, more support from our community at large is of utmost important on this journey.”

Other CISE contributors recognize the need and share the Pichlers’ enthusiasm for the organization’s work. Longtime donor George Vincent witnessed the closing of numerous Detroit Catholic schools and the devastating impact it had on neighborhoods there.

“I’m Lutheran, but I support Catholic schools because they are the backbone of this community. Education touches everything. It’s anti-poverty and helps children become better parents and better citizens,” said Vincent, chairman and managing partner of Dinsmore.

“When I was asked to chair the CISE Campaign, of course I agreed. I’ve visited five of the schools and have been impressed by the quality of the education, dedication of the teachers, and thoughtfulness of the students. I wish we could raise more funds. Think of the lives we could change!”

Wick Ach, retired president and CEO of Hixson Architecture, acknowledges that it can be a challenge to choose a worthy cause to support. “I don’t know of any other organization that uses funds in a more appropriate and effective way to reach its goal than CISE does,” said Ach, who currently serves on the CISE Foundation Board. “When you visit a CISE school and see the actual thing that’s being created – the level of education, the way the children are being taught to treat others – you can’t help but come away impressed.”

CISE’s primary focus has always been in securing tuition for inner-city children who couldn’t otherwise afford a Catholic education, Rodriguez explained. While this continues to be the foundation of CISE’s efforts, support to schools has been significantly expanded in recent years with the addition of many programs and initiatives that support the overall well being and academic achievement of students. This includes having a nurse in every CISE school; behavioral health support; math intervention across all schools and grade levels; summer engagement programs; and weekend food support.

To ensure sufficient funding for the expanded efforts, the goal for the annual CISE campaign has been doubled to $5 million, Rodriguez said, and the kickoff was earlier this year (June rather than September). Ted Torbeck, former Cincinnati Bell CEO, and his wife, Peggy, will chair the campaign, which will run through Jan. 31.

In addition to St. Francis Seraph and St. William, the CISE Fund supports St. Boniface, Corryville Catholic, St. Francis de Sales, Holy Family, St. Joseph, St. Lawrence and Resurrection schools, as well as providing scholarship assistance at designated Catholic high schools.

For more on CISE, click here


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