Tony Hernandez, Principal of Immaculate Conception Catholic School, and Jeff Leonard who serves as a Board Member, recently visited the Creating Future Leaders Podcast to discuss the growth of Catholic education in the Verde Valley.


Tony Hernandez became the Principal of Immaculate Conception two years ago, after many years of working in Catholic education as well as a Parishioner. He says that what sets this school apart is its healthy, faith-based culture. CEA is also passionate about culture, having been recently ranked the number 22 Best Place to Work by the Phoenix Business Journal. This culture and the mission of the school is always forefront of mind for the staff. “We get to put children before the throne of God every day”, he says. “Every moment is an opportunity to grow in our faith and help students get to the next space academically, spiritually and emotionally”.


Jeff Leonard has been on the school board for over a decade, in addition to being involved at Immaculate Conception Church since 2005 and has been able to witness the school’s construction and growth from day one. He’s been able to see the school campus grow exponentially in that time, and because of it, has seen the incredible value of the work that CEA does in providing scholarships for students. Jeff Leonard has been instrumental in helping CEA get the message out about corporate tax contributions, especially because still to this day, many people only know about the individual tax credit.


Corporate Tax Credit Education


Nancy Padberg mentions that the best hidden secret in Arizona is the corporate tax credit. Recently, Immaculate Conception and CEA co-hosted a corporate breakfast to educate local businesses about the credit. Jeff mentions that there were several people that took multiple documents with them to hand out to business associates to spread the word. This education is important because the more businesses that contribute their corporate tax credits, the more underserved students can receive a Catholic education.


In addition to educating people on the corporate tax credit, there are also common scholarship misconceptions that CEA, Jeff and Tony have all worked to clarify for families and donors alike. For example, as a principal, Tony has had many interactions with families who cannot afford the school tuition, and he’s able to point them to CEA for tuition assistance. He lets them know, “We’re so blessed in the state of Arizona to have scholarship opportunities, tax credit opportunities”. He also spends time educating business leaders who are looking for ways to support the school. He says, “They want to create leaders, they want stronger communities, they want our students to go out and really be employed by them, to lead their company. So they’re looking for opportunities to support us in so many different ways. And just having this tax credit opportunity, and being able to answer the questions for them, it’s just another step in that journey where they can you take advantage of a tax credit, and still invest in the community. It’s just a blessing”.


Immaculate Conception and CEA are both on a mission to provide Catholic education to anyone who desires it, and this is all made possible because of individual and corporate donors contributing their Arizona tax credits.