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‘Holy Mass and Holiday Hymns’ with Archbishop Hebda

We were blessed earlier this week with the opportunity to spend time with the Shakopee Area Catholic School (SACS) community who won a special “Holy Mass and Holiday Hymns” with the Most Reverend Archbishop Hebda. The event was a gift to the SACS community from a donor who won the live auction item at our Night of Light celebration in September earlier this year.


Jean Houghton Named President

Following an extensive national search, the Aim Higher Foundation is proud to announce that its Board of Directors has selected Jean Houghton as the organization’s new President. Ms. Houghton will assume leadership of the foundation on November 6, 2017.

“Jean is a proven leader who brings an impressive track record of success at every stage of her career,” said Karen Rauenhorst, chair of the Aim Higher Foundation board. “Her experience and remarkable results-oriented approach to leadership come to our mission at a crucial time.”

“Each year, we see more and more families who seek the benefits of, but cannot access, a Catholic school for their children. Jean has both the vision and the hands-on ability to drive and grow our efforts to ensure that every family that desires a Catholic education for their children can access a Catholic school. The Board of Directors was thrilled to extend the invitation to welcome her to the Aim Higher Foundation.”

Houghton’s professional career is marked by the growth she has catalyzed. At the McDonald’s Corporation, where she began her career as a Business Consultant, she oversaw more than 1,500 employees at 132 restaurants with a combined, average annual volume of $164 million. She was recognized as one of the top consultants in her region in six of her eight years with the corporation. In the other two, she earned honors as one of the nation’s top consultants.

In her most recent position at Saint Agnes Catholic School in Saint Paul, Houghton played a critical role in the success of a $5.8 million capital campaign and secured lead gifts of more than $18 million for the construction of the school’s new building and auditorium. She began her time at Saint Agnes as a parent volunteer and, in 2008, the school’s leadership invited her to leverage her strategic-thinking and business acumen to strengthen the school’s recruitment and retention efforts. After increasing enrollment by 55% in six years, she took over as Director of Donor Relations in 2012 and later was appointed Director of Advancement.

As President, Houghton will be responsible for all aspects of the foundation, overseeing the strategic advancement, management, and operations of the foundation under the direction and guidance of the Board of Directors. She will also oversee and implement its fundraising initiatives including annual giving, endowments, major gifts, planning, giving, and the marque fundraiser, the Night of Light, which recently raised more than $600,000 in pledges and gifts.

“I am honored to accept this invitation to join the Aim Higher Foundation,” said Houghton. “And I am deeply humbled to serve both this mission and the thousands of children who experience the transformative effects of a Christ-centered education because of the scholarships the foundation provides. I look forward to working with the board, the donors, and the broader community to expand this important work.”

Jean and her husband reside in the Cathedral Hill neighborhood in Saint Paul and are parishioners of Saint Agnes Catholic Church. Their three grown children all attended Catholic schools.

About the Aim Higher Foundation:
The Aim Higher Foundation is an independently operated, non-profit organization committed exclusively to the betterment of children through Catholic schools in the 12-county Twin Cities metro area. Since 2012, the foundation has provided scholarships to more than 4,300 children—worth more than $3 million—to attend Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis.

Night of Light to Feature Catholic School Student Emcee

The Aim Higher Foundation is thrilled to announce that this year’s Night of Light event will be led by a very special emcee, Mario Esteb, an 8th-grade student at St. Pascal Baylon Catholic school. For more about Mario and his story, Check out the following article in the Catholic Spirit:

St. Pascal student prepares to be principal for evening


Click here for more information about the Night of Light celebration or to register for the event.

Aim Higher Foundation Welcomes Ricky Austin

The Aim Higher Foundation is pleased to announce that Ricky Austin has been named Director of Programs and Communications effective May 23, 2017. A twelve-year veteran of the Catholic education sector, Austin brings considerable knowledge and experience in the areas of school- and system-level marketing, public relations, program management, and advocacy.

“Ricky has a wealth of strategic and tactical experience in working to revitalize Catholic schools at every level,” said Karen Rauenhorst, chair of the Aim Higher Foundation board. “From his years as a teacher and school administrator to his time leading local advocacy and national communications efforts, he has demonstrated a passion for ensuring Catholic schools are accessible to every family who seeks to send their child to one. The search committee was thrilled to extend the invitation to bring Ricky to the Aim Higher Foundation.”

In the new role, Austin will oversee all scholarship programs and foundation operations while working closely with representatives from local Catholic schools to ensure efficient delivery of tuition support to students with demonstrated need. He will also lead the foundation’s marketing, communications, and public relations, and represent the foundation on issues of public policy.

Austin, a graduate of the University of Notre Dame, began his career as a Catholic school teacher in Oklahoma City as part of Notre Dame’s nationally-recognized Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) Teaching Fellows. Upon completion of the two-year service program and his Master of Education, he continued teaching and took on administrative and marketing responsibilities at a Catholic elementary school in Chicago. He also began his work in advocacy, partnering with a volunteer group and the Archdiocese of Chicago to provide professional development to teachers and scholarship support to students in local Catholic schools.

In 2010, Austin returned to Notre Dame to lead ACE’s digital communications and support its work to build a national movement in service to Catholic schools. He later became head of ACE’s communications team. In that role, he oversaw the strategy, tactics, systems, and processes for ACE’s marketing, brand development, recruiting, and public relations efforts. Most recently, he served as Senior Director of Communications at Partnership Schools, a network of Catholic schools serving more than 2,100 students in Harlem and the South Bronx.

Austin and his wife, a Minnesota native, recently moved to the Twin Cities with their two young children. You can reach him at [email protected]aimhigherfoundation.org.

About the Aim Higher Foundation:
The Aim Higher Foundation is an independently operated, non-profit organization committed exclusively to the betterment of children through Catholic schools in the 12-county Twin Cities metro area. The simple premise that all children deserve the opportunity to aim higher serves as the core principle of the Foundation, which believes that Catholic schools can make a profound difference for our children and our communities by providing an education characterized by academic rigor, discipline, and character development in a faith-centered environment.

The Foundation is governed by a Board of Directors comprised of corporate, community, and education leaders who seek to ensure the future strength of Catholic schools through student-based tuition assistance.