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Lightning Foundation Grant Spotlight: St. Peter Claver Catholic School

by Erin Chenderlin / Tampa Bay Lightning

On April 23, the Lightning Foundation awarded grants to 16 local organizations totaling $120,500 at the Community Awards and Donor Recognition Reception. Grant applicants were asked to detail their organizations and give a proposed program or project, along with a description of how it qualifies under the Lightning Foundation's funding guidelines. The Foundation's Board of Directors selected the 16 organizations. is profiling each of the organizations and the grant they received. Check back daily for a new organization and see how the Lightning Foundation is truly fulfilling its mission to make Tampa Bay a better place to live, work and play.

St. Peter Claver Catholic School

With a continuing grant to St. Peter Claver Catholic School, the Lightning Foundation is providing funds that will go toward four student scholarships for at-risk, minority students. The grant will provide tuition assistance for students who could not otherwise afford to attend the school.

"There's no other word for it except that it’s a gift," said Sister Catherine Bitzer, the principal of the school. "It's a gift to these parents who want the best for their children."

St. Peter Claver Catholic School is the oldest African-American school in the state of Florida and has been in the Tampa Bay area since 1894. It gives deserving and very capable children, who are at risk, hope and new direction, as well as an opportunity to receive a Catholic education.

"It has, since its beginning, educated African American boys and girls," Sister Bitzer said. "That's what it was founded to do, and it's been doing it ever since.

"We have a lot of children that come to us that are in need of scholarships," she continued. "They would never, ever be in this school if it wasn't for these scholarships."

The school offers children and families the opportunity to choose an education that fosters Christian values and places an emphasis on helping serve others. Sister Bitzer said the grant received from the Lightning Foundation will allow her to basically cut the tuition in half for four students looking to come to this school. Being able to help out these low-income families and parents who simply want the best for their children is an overwhelming joy for her, she said.

"They seek our school out, so they want something in the line of a good education and good discipline, and they want [their children] to be brought up to know about God," she said.

The school, located on N Governor Street, is in downtown Tampa and is less than two miles from the St. Pete Times Forum. Sister Bitzer said it’s a wonderful treat to receive this continuing grant from the Lightning Foundation, an organization right in their community.

"It's given to deserving students and families that really want their children here," she said. "The parents are just overjoyed when they receive it."

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