Walla Walla Catholic Schools fund drive reaches milestone

The area's Catholic schools are working to raise $2 million for a variety of projects.

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WALLA WALLA -- Walla Walla Catholic Schools is about halfway to reaching its goal of $2 million through a capital campaign that will bring improvements at the community's two Catholic schools.

The "Momentum -- Moving Catholic Education Forward" campaign will reserve about $600,000 for capital improvements at DeSales Catholic High School, and another $155,000 for computer technology updates at Assumption Grade School and DeSales. Some $600,000 would also go toward financial aid and endowment, while $400,000 is being targeted over five years to maintain the organization's annual fund.

The capital campaign kicked off in September, and about three months in, the effort had raised $1 million.

"I think that really shows the commitment of our alumni, our families and our community to our schools," said David Schmitz, president of Walla Walla Catholic Schools. Schmitz has served as president of the Catholic Schools, a volunteer position, the past four years, and works as a professor of American history at Whitman College.

Schmitz said that early in his leadership, a facilities study was conducted to assess the schools, and the results helped set the framework for the campaign. Pledges to date will be prioritized for capital improvements, the technology updates and a new admissions and public relations office. A new position would be created and advertised in the spring.

The remaining funds would go to covering the cost of academic upgrades such as new lab equipment, teaching materials and textbooks.

Schmitz said the DeSales gym is an example of a facility that has served the school and community well, and is showing deep signs of wear and tear since it was built 50 years ago.

"It's a very active place," he said.

The campaign would also reserve an additional $600,000 for endowments and scholarships, part of a goal of opening the private schools' doors to the greater community.

"I think it's good that we have strong schools" in the community, Schmitz said, adding that he regards the private schools as not in competition with public schools, but as alternatives.

DeSales has boasted a 100 percent graduation rate the last 10 years and has sent all of its graduates to colleges or universities in that time. Schmitz also pointed out another key achievement. Last year alone, the 29 seniors earned about $1.3 million in scholarships.

"We're lean and mean," he said.

Maria P. Gonzalez can be reached at mariagonzalez@wwub.com or 526-8317. Check out her blog at blogs.ublabs.org/schoolhousemissives.

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