By Eileen Connelly, OSU  
Catholic Telegraph Magazine

Combine a mother’s love, faith and commitment to her children’s future with generous donors who support the Catholic Inner-city Schools Education’s (CISE) mission, which helps rewrite urban children’s lives by providing access to a strong Catholic education. The result instilled in Ebony Webb’s five children the confidence that they can become the best they can be, academically and spiritually.c“I was a teenage mom, age 15, when I had my daughter, Destiny,” she explained. “I was so young and scared, but knew I wanted something better for her. As she got close to school age, I knew Catholic education would help her and help me.” 

“My faith has always been my foundation,” said Ebony, who was raised Baptist. “Generations of our family attended the same church and my mother, Carla, raised me to have a powerful belief in God. He has always come first. I wanted my kids to have that, too. My mom couldn’t afford to send me to Catholic school, so when I learned about CISE from the secretary at St. Francis de Sales, it gave me hope.” Ebony’s five children are all former or current students of St. Francis de Sales elementary school, but CISE also assists through high school at designated schools. 

Now 27, her daughter Destiny graduated from Purcell Marian High School, currently works as a chef, and has two children of her own, including a young daughter following in her mother’s footsteps at St. Francis de Sales. 

“The staff there is amazing. They have become like family over the years,” Ebony said. And they respected her children as individuals, instilled enduring values and helped set them up for success.  Her son, Benjamin Ferguson, showed signs of having attention deficit hyperactivity disorder when he was in third grade. “The school recommended having him tested,” she said. “I was reluctant, not wanting to have that stigma, but went ahead. It gave me so much trust in the teachers, and he wouldn’t have gotten that help anywhere else.” 

Benjamin graduated from St. Xavier High School in 2019 and received an athletic scholarship to Fordham University, where he played football. Recently graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business/marketing, he is now pursuing a master’s degree.

Ebony’s daughters, Aissatou “Aissa” and Jariatou “JaJa” Bah, were next to attend St. Francis de Sales. Aissa graduated with honors from Saint Ursula Academy in May and is bound for Tuskegee University on a full academic scholarship. JaJa is entering her junior year at Saint Ursula. 

Ebony is especially thankful for the way the St. Francis de Sales community rallied around her family when JaJa was born with Spina Bifida. “That was a very hard time for our family,” Ebony recalled. “We thought she would never walk. The people at St. Francis de Sales made meals for us and JaJa was on the prayer list at church. When it was time for school, they really worked with us on what JaJa was able to do and not do. Their prayers and support helped heal JaJa. She’s 16 now and runs and walks.” 

Both young women firmly believe that their Catholic education laid the foundation for academic success and for their desire to be of service to others. Aissa was inspired by a St. Francis de Sales’ teacher whose motto was: “What can I do? How can I help?” 

“That really stuck with me,” she said. “It just really ingrained in me that if you see someone struggling, you should assist them. It helped me become the person I am. I think that’s what Catholic education does for a person. It fosters in a person a call to serve and a willingness to give back. My mother taught us that, too.” 

That spirit of service is evident in Aissa’s variety of activities at Saint Ursula, where she received the 2023 Mother Gertrude Creamer Award for her initiative and Christian service. This included serving as a leader in the Bulldog Buddies tutoring program, as co-president of Hands Across Campus (HAC) and as a member of Sisters in Cultural Unity. 

“I’m just so grateful for the support I’ve received and opportunities I’ve had,” JaJa said. “My education has also helped develop my faith, my relationship with God, how I pray, how I think about things, what I choose to read, how I deal with life and treat other people. I always think, ‘What would Jesus do?’”

Diagnosed with diabetes in 2021, JaJa acknowledges that health concerns sometimes presented a challenge, but her faith has seen her through. She hasn’t let such struggles slow her down—JaJa serves as a Bulldog Buddies ambassador, member of Saint Ursula’s Brave Ones Program and co-president of HAC. Both Aissa and JaJa have also been involved in their community as teen staff members with the Cincinnati Recreation Commission and with the Youth Antiracist Leadership Academy Program, which helps young people better understand themselves and the world around them by exploring who they are and how they lead. 

Their younger sister, Housanatou, is following in her siblings’ path. She will graduate from St. Francis de Sales in 2026, completing the family tradition of a CISE education.

Ebony emphasized that she has always strived to teach her children to believe in God and in themselves—that they are inwardly and outwardly beautiful, strong and capable of doing hard things.

“I hope CISE donors know how grateful I am for the impact they have made in my children’s lives,” she said. “They made an investment in my children’s future, and I want them to know that my children will carry that investment forward and make a difference in the lives of other people and make the world a better place, each in their own unique way.” 

Aissa and JaJa also expressed their thanks to CISE. “I don’t think ‘Thank you’ even covers the blessing CISE has been to us,” Aissa said. “I don’t know if donors know the impact their generosity has had.” 

“Ebony represents a group of parents that CISE is proud to partner with as we travel the journey of educating students together,” said Dr. Cate O’Brien, Director of School Programs for CISE. “Our parents want a rigorous, disciplined and faith-based environment for their children. Catholic education is a choice and best chosen by parents like Ebony, who supported her children and their teachers, and the spiritual and academic growth of her children both inside and outside the classroom.”