How to Match Reality & Idealism

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A trustee & parent on why she supports financial aid

From the Fall 2011 Caller

By Elizabeth Steiner Hayward

Knowing that I’m violating a cardinal rule of writing, I’ll start this piece with several rhetorical questions. Why did our family choose Catlin Gabel as the right school for our children? What has inspired us to volunteer our time, energy, and financial resources for the school? What are the values that Catlin Gabel holds dear that we believe should resonate throughout our community and the broader Portland community? A straightforward answer suffices; Catlin Gabel inspires all of us to show our best selves, to reach deep inside and ask tough questions, to accept and rejoice in our commitment to the world around us, to “make the world a better place” (to quote the Girl Scout law).
 
Ideally, this inspiration must be accessible to as many children and families who would benefit from it as possible. Yet economic reality compromises idealism; running a high-quality, progressive, independent school is an expensive proposition, and thus tuition remains beyond the reach of many. To match reality and idealism, Catlin Gabel must have a robust endowment for financial aid, to open our doors to every deserving, qualified student regardless of her family’s means. Without this, our school’s expressed commitment to our ideals and our community becomes hollow and less meaningful.
 
Catlin Gabel without generous financial aid would not be the Catlin Gabel we chose as the right school for our children. It would become a more homogeneous community, less interesting and vibrant. It would ignore the reality of economic diversity that all of our children must understand and appreciate. It would shield our children from the “real world” in which they will all live and work as adults. It would deny the value and contribution of children from all walks of life, from a wide range of circumstances.
 
For the Catlin Gabel community to thrive, we must walk the walk. It is for this reason that our family is so committed to supporting the endowment for financial aid, and that I volunteer on the major gifts committee for our Campaign for Arts & Minds. I love telling others about why we believe so strongly in financial aid, to make Catlin Gabel accessible to the diversity of children and families around the Portland metro area.
 
The Campaign for Arts & Minds is ambitious. We aim to raise funds to build a desperately needed Creative Arts Center, and to fund a thriving, sustainable endowment with special emphasis on financial aid. This endowment will open our doors to many more children who would benefit from attending Catlin Gabel, and would benefit our school from their contributions to our community. However, tuition support alone is not enough. The endowment would also support global education, the teaching and learning center, robotics, outdoor education, and so many other special programs that all our students should benefit from, regardless of their family’s economic reality.
 
We ask a lot of our families at Catlin Gabel. We ask them to engage closely with the school as partners in educating our children, to volunteer time in the classroom or chaperoning dances, to contribute to the Annual Fund. All of those are critical to our children’s success, yet without also contributing to our campaign, without helping open our doors to students who otherwise would be shut out of the Catlin Gabel experience, we are in fact short-changing all our children. Please join me in supporting Catlin Gabel’s future by contributing to our financial aid endowment. The rewards are infinite, and you will make the world a better place.