The Angel Foundation for Learning is best known for its nutrition program, but it’s so much more. Photo courtesy The Angel Foundation for Learning

The Angel Foundation mines student potential

By  Angelica Vecchiato, Youth Speak News
  • April 21, 2021

Student trustee Kathy Nguyen’s position sees her sitting on the board of The Angel Foundation for Learning, a charitable organization affiliated with the Toronto Catholic District School Board that helps students realize their potential regardless of financial challenges.

It’s been a humbling experience for Nguyen, one that has opened her eyes to the need in the community.

“It has taught me that there are people within my community who need support. Without the help of the AFL, there would be many more families struggling economically,” said the 18-year-old Nguyen, a daughter of Vietnamese immigrant parents.

Students in need of a helping hand turn towards the goodwill of the foundation, and students at the board have been eager to in turn help their classmates in need.

“Recently, there was a student-led initiative to organize Easter baskets to raise money for the AFL,” said Nguyen, a Grade 12 student at Madonna Catholic Secondary School. “Each basket was equipped with Easter goodies and came in three sizes: small, medium and large. Students hand-delivered these baskets to people within the community, and all the profits raised went straight back to the AFL.”

In her fifth year as an executive board member of the foundation, Mary-Eileen Donovan, who has taught with the TCDSB for more than 30 years, is passionate about the AFL’s core mission of helping students overcome barriers to academic success.

“I attended two TCDSB elementary schools: St. Bernard’s Elementary School and then St. Francis Xavier. I then graduated from Madonna Catholic Secondary School, so I know firsthand the power of a good education, something that the AFL helps to facilitate,” said Donovan. “Students who find that they cannot achieve success because they need access to healthy food, glasses, epi-pens or even hearing aids, our foundation helps raise funds to support them.”

The Angel Foundation’s leading program is the Student Nutrition Program which collects nearly 1.2 million meals per month to distribute in schools to students who don’t have access to healthy or regular meals. The pandemic has meant drastic changes to this program, which is funded through provincial and municipal government grants as well as donations.

“With schools shut down, we lobbied the government to transfer the money received for our in-school Student Nutrition Program to grocery food cards. Struggling families are eligible to receive a $50 grocery card,” said Donovan.

Along with the Student Nutrition Program, the foundation supports three other main pillars: an allocation fund for school trips, school bursaries offering scholarships for students pursuing post-secondary pathways and the guardian angel fund for emergencies.

Roberto DeLorenzo, principal of St. Augustine of Canterbury, a Catholic elementary school in North York, says has been source of great support for the school, especially in times of crisis.

“In mid-November of 2019, our school community was facing an emergency. There was a fire at 235 Gosford Blvd., an area very near our school location. This fire affected 14 families and 22 children of our school community. The AFL was there for us on the first day,” he said.

“During the first couple weeks, the AFL helped us collect clothing donations and nutritional items to support the families. When families needed more than material donations, the AFL helped us collect monetary funds. We managed to collect $15,000, which we re-directed to purchase gift cards for the families who had suffered as a result of the fire.”

Taylor Dallin, a recipient of the foundation’s Tom Leon student bursary that rewards academic excellence and extracurricular contributions to the school that reflect Catholic values, said she remains “super indebted” to the AFL.

“I am super grateful and fortunate to have received the bursary,” said the first-year political science major at Yale. “Without the financial support from the AFL, I probably wouldn’t be able to study here today.”

(Vecchiato, 16, is a Grade 11 student at Loretto Abbey Catholic Secondary School in Toronto.)

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