Did you know in Arizona taxpayers have choices about where to direct their state taxes? If you have a desire to help families afford the education they choose for their children, sit back, listen and be inspired. You are listening to Creating Future Leaders with Catholic Education Arizona.

Introducing Jeff Mirasola

Deb Preach:
I’m Deb Preach, Chief Development Officer for Catholic Education Arizona. Catholic Education Arizona is a school tuition organization that accepts tax credit contributions from individuals and corporations and turns them into tuition scholarships for students at CEA. We create future leaders.

There’s so much today that I can say about today’s guest. Jeff Marisola is a business leader in Arizona for Lumen Technologies, also known as CenturyLink, and a former member of the Board of Directors for Catholic Education Arizona whom I’ve had the pleasure of knowing for years. He’s a Catholic school parent-we both had daughters that graduated from Xavier College Prep-and just wait until you hear what his beautiful daughter does now. He’s a loyal individual and corporate supporter. And as someone who knows the history of tax credits and the impact of CEA on the community, Jeff is an advocate whose commitment has been appreciated for many years. He’s also a former newscaster, a celebrity, a diehard ASU Sun Devil fan, a skilled golfer, and an all-around great guy. Thanks for joining me today, Jeff.

Jeff Mirasola:
Well, first of all, thank you for that introduction. And celebrity? I don’t know about that, you’d have to talk to my family members about that. And good golfer? That’s a stretch. I try, I try very hard. Thank you. It’s good to be here and to talk about this subject. I’m just so happy that we are able to participate this year at the level we are, just because we just believe in it so much. And it’s just such a win when you see the fruit of the of the scholarships that kids get. That’s what gets me excited.

Jeff Mirasola and Lumen CenturyLink’s Partnership with Catholic Education Arizona

Deb Preach:
Well, that’s wonderful, and we are so fortunate to have you here today. Jeff is a corporate contributor now with Lumen, also known as CenturyLink, your largest contributor this year, and we have so much gratitude for everything you’ve done for us. You also have first-hand experience with the significant impact, the corporate tax credit participants, and the impact that’s made on the lives of thousands of students and families throughout the state with our tuition scholarships. Give us a little bit of history on CenturyLink, now Lumen-the journey, the transition, and what enabled you to come back to CEA and be our largest supporter that we’ve ever had.

Jeff Mirasola:
Well, we are very fortunate in the state of Arizona, that we’re one of the few states that offer this type of a scholarship and to be able to direct your corporate tax dollars and your tax liability. So when we were first approached about this many years ago, it was something that we were very happy to get involved in.

It didn’t take a lot of convincing on a corporate level to be able to do this because the roots of the company are such that the things that we value as a company are the things that we see in in the young people that are getting scholarships, and the kind of education that is coming from the schools that they’re going to. And it’s not just Catholic schools, it’s just the schools that have the belief system in it, that there is something more than just going to school and cranking out and getting good grades. There is a responsibility that we all bear when we get out of school to try to make this community a better place and to be a good corporate citizen. And I don’t think you can start early enough with that.

So, I want to be able to help kids instill that in grade school so that they know that there’s a right and wrong. That there’s a certain way that you should act and should treat others and should strive for, and you should never be able to feel that you can’t get some place because of your personal or your financial situation that you have as a family.

I have seen this over and over from the schools that I’ve gone to and watched some of their ceremonies. I’m just going to point out Brophy as one since I had a son that went there-they have a breakfast, and the force behind it are the are the students. I mean, you’re going to see the Class President and you’re going to see other young men that have done some wonderful things with their lives. And I would say half the time, you know that the child was there only because they were able to get some help to go there. And really, when you see some of the things that they go on to achieve after high school, you start to think about that fact.

I know one child that was in a failing school, just having a terrible time, and having problems at home in a single parent family. The kid wasn’t getting a lot of breaks. But he was a bright kid and wanted a chance to advance himself. And that’s all he needed-he just needed an opportunity to go to a different school. To go to a school where they don’t make fun of you because you want to be studious, and you want to study and still want to be in sports, and you have that side of you. Just to watch what came just because of the opportunity. We just don’t think there should ever be a child out there that cannot reach their full potential based on circumstances beyond their control that they were born into. And if we can help them that and show them that there is a different way to go, and we’re going to help you out. We just all benefit from that down the road. We’re just pumping out good, solid citizens.

Deb Preach:
Absolutely. I couldn’t agree with you more. Jeff, moving on to a little bit about Lumen, also known as CenturyLink, what are some of the values of the company that make philanthropy and corporate social responsibility important in this venture?

Jeff Mirasola:
You know, I’m looking at values on the wall here where we’re doing this and the mission statement. We have eight values, and, and I should remember them all off the top of my head, but one of them is faith. There’s not a definition of what our values are on that on that sheet, so you can take that faith any way you want. The corporate line could be it’s where you have faith in your in your coworkers-and that’s true. But then there’s Faith. And you know, this is a Louisiana based company, and I think a lot of that is just the faith that you have in God, and your fellow man, and the way you want to lead your life. When we can, we can do something as easy as diverting taxes to organizations, seven of them that we’re actually doing in Arizona. It just didn’t take a lot of convincing, quite frankly, to get them to agree to that. It’s the right thing to do. And if you’re able to do it on an individual basis or a corporate basis, we’re going to continue to do it as long as we can.

Tax Credit Donation Advice for Corporations

Deb Preach:
And when you think about the thousands of students statewide that you’re helping with something as simple as a corporate tax credit, it’s mind boggling why we aren’t just busting out of the seams in every private school that we have. What advice would you give to a corporation of any size about using this tax credit? You touched on it just a minute ago, but how easy is it to actually take those steps-to take the tax credit through CEA? What words of wisdom can you share to somebody who’s just really skeptical and who thinks it is too good to be true?

Jeff Mirasola:
Yeah, I would just know that it’s been in existence for quite a few years, and it has withstood the test of time. And it really is as simple as, if you have a corporate tax liability, you get $1 for dollar credit for that. You know, I always am very careful to say that we’re not donating any money. This is money that we’re going to be paying, you’re just diverting it to a child. And we are very careful about who we associate with. We don’t have any say on who gets the money, I know how CEA does it, it’s all needs based. So you don’t need to worry that if you’ve seen things in the past about schools or organizations, you don’t need to think about that. That is not the case here. These are very well-run organizations that have been around for years. These are not fly-by-night operations, by any stretch. They’re solidly in this community. Just ask your tax accountant to determine what your level can be.

Deb Preach:
We have corporate donors that are $5,000, we have some that are significant-you guys, which are in the millions. We are so grateful for every amount no matter what. It’s important to the students. And like you said, the corporate tax credit is not able to be named for specific student-that is strictly given to a school or the organization. You can name a school or schools, and then based on the students and if they meet that eligibility criteria, whether they can get the corporate scholarship.

Jeff Mirasola:
You know, since we got back into it this year, some of the emails that I’ve gotten from organizations-and this is coming from corporate, who had gotten an email and sent it and just said, “I just want you to know, because of COVID a lot of the folks that had been participating in the past haven’t been doing it the last couple years, or they didn’t know this year”. And you know how this goes, you’ve got you’ve got need out there. You’ve got parents and kids and they’re wondering, “Am I going to be able to go back for sixth grade next year? Because I don’t know if the funding is going to be there”. And this email came back and said, “We were really worried we were going to have to make that call and let these folks know you can’t do it this year, we were not going to be able to help you”. And she said, “I got an email saying that we were going to participate again, and I just broke down crying”. The first thing I wanted to do was start calling people. I’m just so happy. It just makes you feel so good that you’re going to be able to help people that way, and that you have a little hope.

On a Lighter Note

Deb Preach:
Absolutely. The day you called us and told us, you called me on the phone and I hung up. First I screamed, and then I tried to do an Irish dance like somebody in your family-it didn’t go very well. So touch on that, because you didn’t get to do that in your introduction. Tell us about what your daughter is doing these days.

Jeff Mirasola:
Well, she’s in Manchester, United Kingdom, and has been since she got out of Xavier. She went there for university and went to Newcastle University. You know, I said, she went to university-yeah, they don’t go to “college” there, they go to “university”. And I also use a word quite often now, which is “whilst”. It’s a wonderful word, you should use it if you haven’t used it.

But anyway, she did not tour because of COVID, but we we’ve been all over the world. We went to Rio, Mexico City, we got to go to the Basilica down there and specifically the shrine of Guadalupe, that was that was quite an experience in Mexico City. You know, all over the UK, Germany, etc… So they have a school in Manchester, an Irish Dance School, which was a challenge trying to teach Irish dance over zoom because you couldn’t come in and they’re a little behind us as far as the protocol. They still wear masks in stores and things like that, they never have taken them off.

So she has toured. You know that she’s done something for a long time when a China tour is coming up or a Taiwan tour-which was the last one they did-and she goes “You know, I’ve already been there a couple of times. I don’t want to go there”. Yeah, so she did not go on the last Taiwan tour. But that was the only live event going on in the world of that kind of magnitude, of Michael Flatley Lord of the Dance-I guess I never said that? I was at a hospital waiting in the lobby yesterday, and the volunteer was playing the piano and I went up after break and I go, “What’s that first song that you played?”. She said, “Oh, it’s called Lord of the Dance”. I say, “Okay, because that’s what they use in the show”. And I explained my daughter and showed her a picture. She said “Oh, I’ve seen that in New York when it was in on Broadway”. And so it’s called “Learning to Dance” and I guess it’s a religious song.

Deb Preach:
Oh yeah, we used to sing it in our parish years ago.

Jeff Mirasola:
I don’t know how I missed that one. I thought I knew all the big songs.
Deb Preach:
ASU. What about it? What are they going to do this year?

Jeff Mirasola:
ASU, ASU. You know, I love Herm Edwards. I drive around in my car with a Herm Edwards Philadelphia Eagle football card, because I’m going to get him to sign that someday. I’m thinking more about what’s going to happen to the Pac-12 after all this. As we’re recording this, we have just learned that Texas and Oklahoma are moving to the SEC. So we don’t know what the Big 12 is going to do. And lots of changes, but you know they’re going to be good. He is a wonderful coach. You know, everything I see-the recruiting is good, I don’t even know really who’s going to be quarterback now, last season was such a fluke, what did they play? Like, six games? It was just bad. I’m looking forward to it. I’m looking forward to getting back into Sun Devil stadium.

Deb Preach:
Yeah. Jeff, on the topic of athletics-you are very involved with an upcoming event that involves Silent Witness. Tell us a little bit about that.

Jeff Mirasola:
Silent Witness. We’ve been around since 1978-you know, that was started by the old Phoenix 40 if anybody’s been around for a long time it’s now Great Phoenix Leadership. So it was this eye witness program started and it helps law enforcement by having witnesses come forward anonymously to help solve crime. So our biggest fundraiser is a golf tournament. We didn’t get to have it last year because of COVID and so we got a little behind. And this year it’s October 28, it is at Papago, which is the ASU course now, and they’ve done a great, great job. They’re fixing it up and built a beautiful clubhouse. And we’re excited this year because we’re trying to make it a good event, we’re going to have Travis Matthew there, and they’re going to bring their big van. So if you’re a player, you’re going to get a credit and you go in their van. Instead of getting that shirt that’s red with stripes on it and looks like a NASCAR, you’re going to get your own shirt, the color you want and the size that you want, you’re going to go and get it there. So we think that’s a great value.

And we’ve got some great sponsors, J Dunn-they’re big sponsor, Big Catholic Construction Firm based in Kansas City that has a presence here in Tempe-they’re one of our sponsors, Bank of Arizona, etc… I shouldn’t have started naming them because I can’t name them all and can’t remember them all. But it’s the 28th. We still have room, we’ve got a little more than half of them sold. And all that money goes to the Silent Witness to pay out for tips. We do not get any money. People get the misconception that we’re an arm of the Phoenix Police Department or something but we are not. We do have a Sergeant with the Phoenix Police Department that’s the on-camera person, it used to be Paul Penzone who’s now Maricopa County Sheriff, that’s when I got involved in the organization. But that’s the only one, we have a couple other little fundraisers that don’t really bring that kind of money in.

But it’s just such a good program. And here’s the thing-we can’t really talk about how we helped solve a crime because there are some legal reasons so it has to be anonymous, we make sure it’s anonymous. But I can just tell you, there’s some great things and families who have been a part of a tragedy oftentimes just need to have that closure. And we’re able to help them do that. And if you get to play golf and get to be at Papago, and we’ve got some other surprises this year. There’s going to be some fun things that we’re working on. We’re trying to get some vehicles. And I don’t want to say because I don’t want to jinx it, but there these are iconic vehicles that you would really love to see and you can get pictures of them.

Conclusion

Deb Preach:
Jeff, it has been such a pleasure talking to you today. Again, our eternal gratitude for everything you and Lumens CenturyLink has done for us and the thousands of students that we support. On a personal note, it’s been great knowing you all these years and you being on the Board of Directors. Whenever we needed something, Jeff was on our Board, he was here whether it was to sign checks, help us with something that had a decision that needed to be made, or input given-there’s just nobody like you.

So I thank you so much for being my guest today, for your time and support, and for all our listeners who are joining us. For more information on the tax credit program at Catholic Education Arizona, visit www.CatholicEducationArizona.org or call us at 602-218-6542. It’s always a great day at CEA, and we’ll see you next time.

You have been listening to Creating Future Leaders with Catholic Education Arizona. For more information visit us at www.CatholicEducationArizona.org.