St. Mary’s Child Center Prepares Youth for Success in Kindergarten & Beyond


​Quality early childhood education is critical; it increases the likelihood that a child will do well in school, graduate high school and attend college or a job-training program. Early education can also increase a child's potential earnings as an adult by up to 60%. This effects communities, too – it's estimated for every $1 spent on high-quality early education, later intervention costs are reduced by $17.

With four locations in Indianapolis, St. Mary's Child Center is doing important work. Without intervention, children from low-income families enter school significantly disadvantaged compared to their middle class peers. Typically, middle class children are read to 1,400 hours before starting first grade, but children living in poverty are only read to 25 hours. Because their families struggle to provide basic needs, they lag behind when starting school and the gap tends to widen as the years progress. 

5th Annual Building Community Award Supports Preschool Scholarships

Last fall, St. Mary's Child Center was named the 2019 Gerry Rauenhorst Building Community Award winner and received a $66,000 Opus Foundation® grant. This annual award honors our founder's legacy by supporting nonprofits working to improve lives and make our communities better places to live, work and raise families. The grant totals $1,000 for every year of our history that began in 1953.

For more than 50 years, St. Mary's has made early childhood education available to low-income families. In addition to supporting preschool educators with an educational outreach program, St. Mary's provides a preschool program for three- to five-year-old children, 93% of whom live in poverty.   

Each year, St. Mary's raises money through donations, grants and events to help cover preschool costs for families. The $66,000 grant is providing scholarships and leveling the playing field for 66 children in Indianapolis.   

National Accreditation & Success Metrics

St. Mary's preschool program is nationally accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), state-licensed and rated at the highest level on Indiana's quality rating scale. Using the I-STAR-KR state assessment, children's progress is measured in the areas of language arts and mathematics, as well as physical, personal care and social-emotional skills. If a child hits the 80% score required by the assessment, he or she is ready for school. Despite significant barriers like poverty, special needs and English as a second language, 85% of St. Mary's children achieve that goal.

“We have a low adult to child ratio of 1:7, so we can focus appropriately on the social and emotional, as well as cognitive and physical development for the children," said Shannon Mason, Director of Development for St. Mary's. “Providing this level of interaction requires significant funding, which is why we are so grateful to Opus for the opportunity to receive the sizeable award."

Building on a History of Philanthropic Support

This is not St. Mary's first dance with Opus. The Opus Foundation has supported several key St. Mary's initiatives in the past, including funding a preschool behavioral health program and helping to get a family engagement program off the ground. To date, including the Building Community Award, the Opus Foundation has awarded $202,400 to St. Mary's.  

“We so appreciate Opus," said Mason. “They are kind and genuinely interested in helping and making a difference. I don't think it's just a job for any of them. They are interested in the bigger picture and helping people in our communities."


In partnership with the Opus Foundation, in 2015 we launched the Gerry Rauenhorst Building Community Award to honor our founder's legacy of giving and celebrate our history. Learn about the Award.