Darwin Contreras knows the Inner-City Scholarship Fund and a Catholic education opened doors for his future.
The senior at All Hallows High School in the Bronx spoke on behalf of the graduating class to the more 400 guests at the 41st annual Inner-City Scholarship Fund Friends Gala at Cipriani 42nd Street in Manhattan. The May 9 event raised more than $1 million.
“The Inner-City Scholarship Fund has opened doors to countless opportunities for me and the thousands of other students who receive financial assistance,” said Contreras in his speech.
“Some people believe that being able to attend a Catholic institution is the best thing that can happen to you; I am living proof that this is true.”
Contrerus will attend the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass., on a full academic scholarship in the fall.
Established in 1971 by Cardinal Terence Cooke and a group of executives of many religious backgrounds, the Inner-City Scholarship Fund assists more than 8,000 Catholic school students annually in the Bronx, Manhattan and Staten Island. Ninety-seven percent of inner-city Catholic high school seniors graduate and 95 percent pursue post-secondary education.
“CBS Sunday Morning” correspondent Mo Rocca served as master of ceremonies at the gala, which was attended by Cardinal Dolan and gala chairs Michael and Wendy Esposito.
The event featured a “Battle of the Boroughs” musical performance by Blessed Sacrament School, Manhattan; St. Raymond High School for Boys, the Bronx; and Moore Catholic High School, Staten Island.
“With the end of the school year approaching, we are constantly reminded of the importance of a quality education,” Susan George, executive director of the Inner-City Scholarship Fund, said in a statement. She thanked the guests for their continued support of Catholic education.
Contreras, who attended Christ the King School in the Bronx, is the youngest of two children raised by a single mother. He said he watched his mother, Fatima Contreras, make financial sacrifices and work extra hours so that she could send her two children to Catholic schools.
Contreras said his journey at All Hallows was one of “growth and inspiration.” He twice was nominated to participate in the Albert Schweitzer Leadership for Life Program in Dublin, Ireland, and attended the National Hispanic Institute’s Youth Legislative Session in Chicago. He also participated in a mock trial through the Inner-City fund that introduced him to law, and he hopes to serve as a U.S. diplomat.
“All Hallows and Inner-City Scholarship Fund have shown me how important values and morals are in life,” Contreras said. “Both values and morals lead to what is good in this world. It’s important to me that I continue my education in a college that shares in that belief. I’m proud to say that I will (at Holy Cross).
“You have my word that I will make the most of the education that’s been provided to me and will serve as a role model for other young boys in my community.”