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Priest funds Catholic preschool


As the region’s only Catholic school, Cottonwood’s Immaculate Conception Catholic School serves families throughout the Verde Valley and Sedona.

Despite substantial support from parishioners of Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, St. Frances Cabrini Catholic Church in Camp Verde and St. John Vianney Catholic Church in Sedona, funding for the preschool at Immaculate Conception Catholic School has always been a challenge. Arizona Education Tax Credits cannot be applied to the preschool program and scholarships are not available for preschoolers.

Enter Father Kieran Kleczewski of St. John Vianney, a member of the Immaculate Conception Catholic School District Governing Board. In June, fresh off a major hip surgery, Kleczewski and his staff held an “Enchanted Evening” event at Seven Canyons in Sedona, raising $13,088.96 for the preschool. On Tuesday, Aug. 29, he delivered the entire amount to Immaculate Conception Catholic School Principal Jackie Kirkham.

“From the beginning, we’ve been a big supporter of the school,” Kleczewski said, adding that St. John Vianney’s parishioners contribute over half the tax credits to the school. As a governing board member, he is also aware of the school’s particular challenges and hoped the Enchanted Evening event would close the funding gap for the preschool. “I knew they were short about $10,000.”

“Our preschool has traditionally lost money,” Kirkham said, adding that even with few resources Kleczewski, recovering from surgery, made sure the event came off. “His whole office staff pulled together. Six people made the entire thing happen …. We rely on these types of fundraisers. [The donation] helped support five students who needed help with tuition.”

According to Kleczewski, supporting the preschool makes sense when the value of the school’s morning and afternoon programs for pre-K students is so apparent. Kleczewski said that the biggest benefit is increased socialization, but preparation for the discipline and academic requirements of formal grade school is also important.

“They’re very well prepared to move forward,” Kleczewski said. “[Preschool] lays the groundwork for the rest of their grade school education.”

Kirkham expressed gratitude toward the pastors of the three local Catholic churches, praising them for “pulling together” for a program that helps families in each church’s community.

“It is so wonderful that we have support within our Catholic community from other parishes other than our own,” Immaculate Conception Catholic School office manager Merrily Pychinka said.

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