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Teacher considers experience at CISE school a blessing

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They provided opportunities that changed the course of his life.

That’s how Curtis Smith describes his experience at Resurrection School in Price Hill and the scholarship from the CISE (Catholic Inner-City Schools Education) Fund that enabled him to continue his education at Elder.

Smith recalls that his mother, Barbara, who passed away five years ago, struggled with the public school education he was receiving.

“It would have been a huge burden for me to attend private school,” Smith said, “but, thanks to support from CISE donors, it was economically feasible at Resurrection. The CISE program helped keep the one major stable institution in my neighbor-hood from having to close its doors. That school and the teachers were able to give me guidance that would have otherwise been left to far less caring and dedicated faculty and staff,” he said.

As a freshman at Elder, he was encouraged to join the cross-country team by biology teacher Bill Driehaus. “I was reluctant at first and mostly did it to get in shape to play basketball,” Smith admitted. “But there were so many blessings that the school ended up providing me.”

One of those blessings was meeting Steve Spencer, longtime Elder cross-country coach, who eventually became his father-in-law. Smith and his wife Ashley have been married nearly 14 years and have three children.

“I believe the CISE program paid about $500 to $1,000 to me each year while at Elder. That was huge for my mom who was a single parent and working as a social worker,” Smith said. “Because of CISE, Elder was possible, and it gave me an entirely different path to my future. My mom was able to provide me an opportunity that was otherwise not going to be possible and something that altered my life completely.”

After graduating from Elder in 2001, Smith continued his studies at Mount St. Joseph University, majoring in sociology and criminal justice. He initially worked as a police officer, but soon found himself drawn to educational ministry and back to Elder, where did student teaching and served as a long-term substitute teacher. Smith earned his master’s degree in theology from the Mount in 2006, and currently teaches religion at Summit Country Day School.

It was an Elder connection that led to his position there, Smith said. “My high school basketball coach, Joe Schoenfeld, recommended me to Father Phil Seher (then chaplain at Summit), who called me in for an interview,” he explained.

His time at Summit has been yet an-other blessing, Smith said, as he shares his journey with students. “I tell them, ‘you may think you have a plan that’s yours, but that if you want to have God laugh, make a plan.’”

“There are so many uncertainties in high school. That’s normal,” he added. “I remind the students to trust in God and in the relationships they have to lead them in the direction in which they are being called.”

“CISE is helping kids each day realize potential that they would have never been given the opportunity to realize without these financial resources at their disposal. I feel blessed there were people like this out there looking out for young kids like me,” Smith said.

To learn about CISE (Catholic Inner-City Schools Education) click here.

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