Maryland's BOOST Program Awards Nearly $5 Million In Scholarships To Low-Income Students

ANNAPOLIS, MD 08-24-16---The Broadening Options and Opportunities for Students Today (BOOST) Scholarship Program has awarded nearly $5 million to the inaugural group of scholarship recipients for the 2016-2017 school year for students to attend an eligible nonpublic school in the state of Maryland. All certified applicants qualified for the federal government’s free or reduced-price meals program, which is often used in education-related legislation to identify low-income families. 

The BOOST scholarship program was established in March 2016 by the Maryland General Assembly, and is administered by the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) and seven-member BOOST Advisory Board appointed by the state legislature. 

Despite a very short window for submitting applications, the demand for the program was overwhelming. MSDE received more than 4,500 applications and ultimately certified approximately 3,000 students. Applicants came from 20 of the 23 counties in the state plus Baltimore City. 

More than half of the funds allocated ($2.65 million), were offered to public school students. The rest were offered to low-income nonpublic school families struggling to keep their students in the school determined to be the best educational environment for them.

Catholic schools in Maryland were pleased to welcome many of the newly enrolled public school students.

In the Archdiocese of Baltimore, 628 students received $1.5 million in scholarships, including 236 children (38 percent) who will be new to Catholic schools. Among the new students attending Catholic schools, 38 will be enrolled at Cristo Rey High School, 21 at Cardinal Shehan School, 17 at St. Frances Academy and a dozen at Holy Angels Elementary School. all which serve some of the lowest income demographic in Baltimore City.

Thirty-two students received scholarships to Archbishop Borders School, including first-grader Diana Lopez, who is transferring from Patterson Park Charter School. She received $3,400 for the school year, nearly 60 percent of the $5,725 tuition.

“I am very thankful,” said Rosalyn Vera, Lopez’s mother. “This gives low-income families a tremendous opportunity to go to a Catholic school. Without this scholarship we couldn’t afford it. She is very bright but gets lost in big classes. This will give her a chance to be better. I love that Catholic school brings structure. Being able to take advantage of the BOOST program is amazing. Hopefully it grows to give other kids the opportunity at a better education. There are a lot of kids out there who get lost. This gives them a chance.”  

The demand was also high in the Archdiocese of Washington where 451 students, including 142 new students (32 percent), received $986,400 in scholarships. St. Francis International School in Silver Spring garnered nearly 100 scholarships, including 43 first-time students. 

At St. Matthias School, seventeen returning students received scholarships, including fourth-grader Ayodele Ogunlade, who has attended the Lanham elementary school since kindergarten.

“I have had nothing but a great experience at St. Matthias,” said Janelle Ford, Ogunlade’s mother. “Ayo has come so far. The teachers work hard and never gave up on him. They work with him until he gets it. The small class sizes have allowed more one-on-one opportunities to help. This scholarship helps tremendously for him to be able to continue his Catholic education. He gets an opportunity to be in a great school, around great kids with great teachers. They really make sure kids are surrounded in a learning environment.”

Students on the Eastern Shore, part of the Diocese of Wilmington, received nearly $50,000 in scholarships.

The Maryland Catholic Conference represents all three dioceses with territory in the state – the Archdiocese of Baltimore, the Archdiocese of Washington, and the Diocese of Wilmington.