Meet Julie & Steve Hellebusch

Meet Julie & Steve Hellebusch

Meet former Cincinnatians Julie and Steve Hellebusch. Julie and Steve have been faithful CISE donors since 2009. For many years, they were monthly donors, and despite moving to Texas for work in 2013, they have continued to donate to CISE regularly. 

Julie and Steve are both products of a great Catholic education. Julie graduated from Mt. Notre Dame High School in Cincinnati and Steve graduated from Covington Catholic High School in northern Kentucky. Both hold degrees from Thomas More University where they met, and Steve received an advanced degree at the University of Notre Dame.  

They learned about CISE when they and their children were parishioners at St. Gertrude. 

When asked why they continue to donate even though they have been residents of Texas for ten years, Steve replied, “We have always thought education is the way to bring about positive change, so we continue to support CISE!”

Thank you, Julie and Steve, for supporting your hometown with your continuous generosity.  

Paying It Forward: A CISE Scholar’s Journey of Gratitude

Paying It Forward
A CISE Scholar’s Journey of Gratitude

Meet Bitanya Derese, a CISE alumna with a remarkable story of resilience and determination. Born in Ethiopia, the Derese family immigrated to the United States in 2007 with dreams of a better life. America was not just a new home, it was a land of opportunities. As an immigrant and a child of non-English-speaking parents, Bitanya faced many challenges. She recalls, “A lot of responsibility was attached to that. I had to serve as a translator for my parents and deal with many things that a kid wouldn’t know what to do with. I think that’s part of what made me so driven and independent today.”

The family settled in Cincinnati and Bitanya’s educational journey began at Holy Family Elementary, a CISE-supported school in Price Hill. Holy Family became a vital support system during the family’s early days in Cincinnati. More than just a school, the staff demonstrated genuine concern for the family’s well-being, including a dedicated secretary who even helped them find affordable housing.

At Holy Family, Bitanya received a CISE high school scholarship that enabled her to attend Seton High School. She thrived both academically and socially; actively participating in Hope Squad, a suicide prevention group, serving as a student ambassador and joining the diversity and inclusion club. Reflecting on her time at Holy Family and Seton, Bitanya expressed gratitude, “I’m really grateful that I got to go to a private school; it definitely set me up for success in life. Private Catholic education was not in my family’s budget at all. I also really appreciated the Catholic aspect of it. I am religious myself and the fact that I could take religion classes helped me to grow stronger in my faith.”

During her sophomore year, the Derese family visited their home village in Ethiopia, and Bitanya was deeply moved by the poverty she saw there. “The kids barely had anything,” she said. “They didn’t even know if they were going to eat the next day, but they were still joyful, happy kids. I realized how much we take for granted here.” This experience motivated Bitayna to take action. She began raising money for the cause, and with the guidance of her high school advocate, Jenny Jenkins, she created The Grateful Foundation, a nonprofit that helps the children of her village receive the basic supplies needed. “She’s a remarkable kid; the family has had some struggles along the way, but she’s very strong,” Jenkins reflects. “When she was at Seton, she organized out-of-uniform days and different fundraisers to collect money for the community in Ethiopia; she continues to work.” Through The Grateful Foundation, Bitanya has been able to raise thousands of dollars for the children in Ethiopia.

These days, you can find Bitanya attending the University of Cincinnati, where she is a 2nd-year honors student at Lindner Business School, studying marketing. She received the prestigious Cincinnatus Presidential Scholarship, awarded to only 10 students per year, covering full tuition, room and board, and books. “If you had told me in 7th grade at Holy Family that I would get a full-ride scholarship to college and have all of this, I would’ve been like ‘no way!’” Bitanya shares, “I think God placed this in my life on purpose. I think utilizing what falls in your lap and being appreciative is the thing that gets you far in life.” While marketing is her academic focus, Bitanya’s commitment to The Grateful Foundation remains a priority as she continues to raise money for the children of Ethiopia today.

When asked what drives her, Bitanya responds, “It’s my parents. I don’t know if I’d have the courage to sacrifice my whole life, getting up and moving to another country where you don’t even know the language. Just knowing that I’m making these milestones, getting scholarships, and really working for myself, I think it’s worth it for them. Their sacrifice is meaningful, I am actually utilizing what they came here to give me.”

Bitanya’s story embodies the spirit of paying it forward. From humble beginnings in Ethiopia to multiple-scholarship recipient to creating opportunities for others, her journey demonstrates the transformative power of education, faith, and working to make a difference. It reminds us that the greatest blessings come from being a source of blessings to others.

Meet Principal Jen Long

Today We Celebrate Mrs. Jen Long, principal of St. Lawrence in Price Hill.

Mrs. Long believes that the greatest responsibility we have to the children who are entrusted to our care is to provide the tools that they need to become faith-filled, lifelong learners. 

About Principal Long:
This is my 3rd year as principal of St Lawrence. I am blessed to be a part of the Eagle Family! I have been in education for 26 years- 9 of those years at St Lawrence. I graduated from Seton High School and received my undergraduate degree in Education from NKU. My Masters and Principal’s licensure were completed at Wright State University. I am a Westsider (Seton girl married an Elder guy!) My husband Greg and I have 3 boys: Justin (22), studying to be a Chemical Engineer at the University of Cincinnati (UC), Kyle (20), studying to be a Mechanical Engineer at UC, and Ryan (17), a junior at Elder High School. (Guess what? He wants to be an engineer, too!)

Bucket List: Hike in every National Park 
Fun Fact about Mrs. Long: I have run in 5 half-marathons.
Favorite Quote: “In a world where you can be anything, be kind.”

CISE Feasibility Study

CISE Feasibility Study
Building Business & Education Partnerships

CISE is six months into the one-year feasibility study, led by Dr. Mari Thomas, to explore and identify alternative pathways for our graduates. One critical development in this work is the launch of a Business Advisory Council, BAC. All Ohio public school districts and Educational Service Centers are required, by law, to have a BAC. Currently, Ohio has 110 Business Advisory Councils. BACs serve as focused platforms where education and business leaders come together to engage in dialogue about regional economic drivers, build understanding of work-based learning opportunities, and identify strategies that will transform the traditional student learning experience.

CISE is excited to have representatives from the following businesses/industries on the BAC: 

  • Archdiocese of Cincinnati 
  • Business 
  • CISE 
  • Construction 
  • Health Care 
  • IT 
  • K-12 Education 
  • Manufacturing 
  • Ohio Department of Education and Workforce 
  • Post-Secondary Education 

The first meeting is set for March 19, 2024, and will take place at the Greater Cincinnati Foundation. The meeting will focus on understanding the workforce landscape and showcasing career and technical growth opportunities within Catholic schools. 

Build Understanding – Develop and increase collaborative relationships among businesses, labor, and education personnel.  

Develop Professional Skills for Future Careers – Work together to delineate key professional skills needed for the future job market.  

Coordinate Experiences – Create environments that allow students to demonstrate proficiency in critical professional and specialized skills that will aid in future employment. 

As we work to explore and build alternative pathways for CISE-supported High School graduates, the BAC will be instrumental in identifying and validating promising practices that will have a positive impact on shaping the future of education for our students. 

2023 Campaign Wrap Party

2023 Campaign Wrap Party

The Hyde Park Country Club was buzzing with excitement as campaign co-chairs, Liz Niehaus and Don Mellott, board members, staff and supporters gathered to celebrate the success of the annual campaign. The highlight of the evening was the inspiring speeches given by two CISE students from Roger Bacon High School, who shared how CISE has helped them achieve their goals. We were also delighted to have CISE alumna, Tyra Jones, join us for the evening. It was a great reminder of the impact that CISE has on the lives of students and the community. We are grateful for the continued support of our donors and look forward to another successful year.

SGO Donations at Work in Price Hill

A Brighter Future for Students with Learning Differences –

In the heart of Price Hill lies St. Lawrence Elementary School, a safe and inclusive Catholic school serving students in Cincinnati’s inner-city. It’s the kind of school every parent would like for their child to attend. When you step through its doors, you’re immediately welcomed into a warm, friendly environment, where colorful student artwork adorns the walls.

But the transformation happening here runs deeper than what meets the eye. This transformation is not only reshaping the lives of students; it’s a testament to the power of collaborative partnerships. This year, St. Lawrence introduced OptimALL, an intervention program which brings crucial educational support to students with diverse learning needs. This transformative program is made possible by generous donations to CISE-SGO (Scholarship Granting Organization).

Iker, a first grader living with autism, faced an uncertain educational future due to complex state regulations surrounding scholarships for children with special educational needs. Like many, his parents struggled to balance the specialized support Iker required and financial constraints. Principal Jen Long was concerned that St. Lawrence might lose this family due to their struggles to meet Iker’s needs. She recalls the moment, saying, “His parents were looking at us, saying, ‘Please help our child,’ and they didn’t know what to do.” Complicating the matter further, Iker’s parents do not speak English, so at another school they may not receive the Spanish language support that St. Lawrence offers.

“For us to now be able to support this family is just awesome,” says Mrs. Long. “There have been children in the past whose needs were too great, and we had to find other placements for them. The fact that we’ve been able to keep those kids now is pretty fantastic.” This not only benefits the students but also their families, highlighting the advantages of being part of a tight-knit school community.

Bridget Bandusky attests to the positive changes she’s seen in her 4th-grade classroom this year, saying, “I’ve been here for four years, and it’s a night-and-day difference from what we’ve had before. There’s a lot more care put into making sure everyone is getting what they need.” Bridget’s class has an intervention specialist come in for math once a week, pulling out the students with IEPs (Individualized Education Programs) for small group direct instruction where they target the skills that the students are missing. This intervention has not only boosted academic confidence but has also empowered students to take ownership of their work. Bridget takes pride in the transformation she’s witnessed: “I’ve already seen kids who were struggling learners now getting A’s and B’s on their tests. It’s great for them to realize, ‘Oh wow, I can do this!'”

With OptimALL’s support, students can stay on task more effectively and benefit from additional assistance, ensuring that no one falls behind. Principal Long underscores the importance of small-group learning, stating, “Anytime you put kids in small groups, they learn so much faster.”

Trelynn is a St. Lawrence student who receives intervention support, and describes the help she’s receiving this way: “She works with me and helps me with my math and reading. She helps me understand my work better, and it isn’t too fast for me.”

OptimALL intervention specialist, Shannon Buckner, is a vital part of the classroom, working on math and behavioral goals alongside the students. She also collaborates with teachers to communicate the students’ needs and develop strategies for better interactions. For Shannon, this work is deeply personal: “Part of why I wanted to become an intervention specialist was because I struggled in school so much. When I found out that there were teachers to support students who struggle, I decided that’s what I wanted to do. That student was me.”

Jason, a kindergartener who attends St. Lawrence with his two sisters, would not be able to attend St. Lawrence without access to this intervention program. His teacher, Katie Noschang, shares the progress Jason has made since the introduction of the program, “Mary comes and sits with Jason, who has some behavioral struggles. She helps him settle down and focus, she assists him in whatever way he needs so that he can learn.” The impact of this support is not limited to Jason alone; it extends to the entire classroom, creating a more harmonious environment where every child receives the assistance they need to thrive.

OptimALL’s dedication to meeting students where they are, and tailoring support to individual needs, is making a significant impact at St. Lawrence. Generously funded by CISE-SGO scholarships, this program ensures every child, regardless of learning challenges, can thrive. It showcases the impact of collaboration, support, and dedicated educators shaping a brighter future for St. Lawrence students.

Party at the Pitch!

We Are Really Excited!


Yes, it’s five months away, but we are so excited to announce the next CISE Party will be held at the home of FC Cincinnati, TQL Stadium at the Pitch View Club

Watch for more details early next year. It’s going to be an awesome event that you don’t want to miss.

Please, contact Kelly Camm to learn about how you can be a sponsor for Party at the Pitch.

A New Playground!

A New Playground!

This past weekend was the official ribbon cutting for a brand new playground at St. Lawrence Elementary School. Thanks to the generosity of longtime CISE donor, Nick Ragland, 55 preschoolers will enjoy a new, safe playground.

The smiles on the children’s faces say it all!

Listen to CISE on Sacred Heart Radio

CISE is taking to the airwaves with two radio interviews on “Driving Home the Faith” with Fr. Jack Rob on Sacred Heart Radio. Join us as Phil McHugh dives into what’s happening at CISE, sharing insights and updates that you don’t want to miss.

Mark your calendar for these important dates.
November 13 at 4:05 pm – Get ready to catch the latest happenings at CISE
December 4 at 4:05 pm – Tune in for another engaging discussion about CISE.

Listen live at 740AM or 910AM, or download the Sacred Heart Radio App.

Meet Carol & Dick Stevie

Allow us to introduce you to Carol and Dick Stevie, unwavering CISE supporters.

Originally from East Price Hill, Carol attended St. Lawrence Elementary School (a CISE-supported school since 2012.) Dick is originally from Northern Kentucky and was also educated in Catholic schools. Dick met Carol met at a Thomas More University fraternity party.

In 1997, and Carol joined CISE as the first full-time Executive Director since CISE was established in 1980. When she came on board, it was just her and an administrative assistant. That first year, Carl Lindner donated $1.5 million to CISE to begin a technology program in the CISE supported schools. The following year $1 million was donated by a foundation to increase enrollment. Carol recalls, “These were game-changing donations. Support for CISE increased steadily throughout the years through the efforts of the dedicated CISE Board, Annual Campaign chairpersons, volunteers, and generous donors. They were all critical to the success of CISE and its ability to educate children in our community. We were a great team, and I was so grateful to work with all of them.”

During her tenure, Carol helped set up the high school scholarship program and assisted with the establishment of the CISE Foundation – a separate 501(c)(3) – thanks to a generous seed gift from an anonymous donor. 

When the CISE Foundation was established in 2007, Carol recognized the opportunity to start a planned giving program for CISE. With the help of Allison Kropp, they established the St. Benedict Society and the Stevies became charter members of this esteemed group.

In 2008, Carol made the decision to step down to a part-time Associate Director role for family reasons.  She concentrated her efforts on donor engagement, the CISE Foundation and continuing work on a planned giving program. In January 2017 after nearly 20 years with CISE, Carol retired. Carol believes that her Catholic education guided her and helped her to be successful. 

When asked why they decided to be members of the St. Benedict Society, Carol replied, “Personally, Dick and I believe that it is important to continue our longtime support of CISE after we are no longer here with a planned gift.  A bequest through our estate will enable CISE to continue its good work of changing the lives of children in our community.” Dick added, “Education drives your whole future.”

The Stevies were presented with the CISE Faith in Education Award in 2017.   

Today, you can find Carol and Dick enjoying retirement, and they recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. They have two grown daughters, Beth and Laura.