Annie Salasek blends right into the student body at St. Thomas the Apostle School with little notice she’s in a wheelchair.
Although a timid second-grader when she first arrived, students naturally wanted to help her transition go smoothly.
And when it was discovered she could not get her wheelchair up the stairs to the cafeteria, two classmates videotaped her struggles, applied and received a $1,000 grant to build a ramp.
“When I first got there, I was scared about being in a wheelchair. The first day all the kids thought my wheelchair was the coolest thing and they all wanted to push me,” said Annie, who has spina bifida and is now an eighth-grader. “I don’t know what would have happened if I never got the ramp. It has helped me so much.”
Annie is featured in a new Charity and Development Appeal video along with her five siblings, former and current STA students.
Faced with physical and financial needs for their children, Ched and Nannette Salasek chose Catholic education despite the sacrifice.
“No matter how tough things got, we made a decision early on in our marriage to educate our children in Catholic school. We believe the education they are receiving is not only shaping their minds but also shaping their souls,” Ched said.
“At school our children are learning what their purpose in life is and what gifts and talents our Lord has bestowed on them. The financial support we have received from CDA has made all this possible.”
Catholic schools provide a basic foundation of catechetical instruction to children in pre-kindergarten through high school.
In addition to reading, science and math, faith and values underpin a Catholic education and are an integral part of the life of the school and its curriculum.
The annual appeal, supported by generous donations from parishes throughout the Diocese of Phoenix, makes it possible for families to choose a Catholic education that would otherwise be cost prohibitive.
Catholic schools are open to all children, no matter their race, creed or socioeconomic status.
Enrique Diaz is the principal at St. Vincent de Paul School where many students come from low-income families that receive CDA assistance.
“Most of them would not be here if we did not offer the help,” he said, adding many go on to attend Catholic high schools and become the first in their families to be accepted into college.
One alumnus from the elementary school’s class of 2008 was accepted into law school at Arizona State University.
“Stories like this makes us realize the difference that we make,” Diaz said, whose school last year received $50,000 in allocated CDA funds.
St. Agnes Principal Christine Tax said the $75,000 in funding last year is “crucial” for her students to attend the school where academia and spirituality combine to form “saints and scholars.”
“For our students, these funds can make the difference in whether or not families can afford to send their children to a Catholic school,” Tax said.
For the working two-parent household like the Salasek family, all the effort is worth the cost. Their son Andrew was accepted to his parents’ alma mater, Franciscan University.
“They learn their faith is very much part of who they are and not what they do on Sundays,” Nannette said, adding, “It’s part of their life and how they see it.”