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Businesses get credit, students reap benefits

| Friday, April 5, 2013, 12:26 a.m.

Our Lady of the Most Blessed Sacrament School in Harrison and St. Irenaeus School in Oakmont will split $10,000 for scholarships for underprivileged students.

The donation, which was made by UnitedHealthcare through the Bridge Educational Foundation, was announced Thursday afternoon in Blessed Sacrament's kindergarten room.

The Bridge Educational Foundation is a nonprofit group that helps local schools secure scholarship money from the state Educational Improvement Tax Credit Program, or EITC, and direct it toward low-income families wishing to send their children to private school.

EITC offers businesses the ability to earn tax credits for making donations to schools or educational improvement groups.

Students in Heidi Culleiton's kindergarten class were presented with a ceremonial check and listened as state Rep. Frank Dermody and UnitedHealthcare Vice President of Network Strategy Michael Fantoni read them stories.

“The EITC money allows students to come to Blessed Sacrament that might not be able to afford it,” said Sean Davis, Blessed Sacrament principal. “All the money we get goes directly to students.

“It allows us to offer more children the opportunity to come here.”

The average tuition for students attending parochial schools in the Diocese of Pittsburgh is $3,450, according to the diocese.

Dermody, D-Oakmont, reiterated Davis' words to the students before he read to them.

“This check means other kids will have the opportunity to go to Blessed Sacrament,” Dermody said, perched in a tiny classroom chair intended for a kindergartner.

UnitedHealthcare's Fantoni said the Bridge Educational Foundation's goals line up with his company's goals.

“The monies we can afford to them complements our mission,” Fantoni said. “We believe that well-educated kids grow up to be successful, healthy adults.”

Joe Gerdes, a founder of the Bridge Educational Foundation, made sure the students knew how lucky they were to be able to attend Blessed Sacrament.

“Your parents are paying money for you to go to school here,” Gerdes told the youngsters. “That's what we call a sacrifice.

“You should thank them for making the sacrifice to send you here.”

R.A. Monti is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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