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A Cheerleader for Future Generations


amy wathen


Amy Wathen knows exactly why she wanted to start the Amy J. Wathen Endowment. “I just want to be a cheerleader for future generations—someone who cares enough to say, go for it!”

The Amy J. Wathen Endowment is our newest endowment at the Catholic Foundation of Eastern Montana. Its annual distribution will provide scholarships for any special needs children, grades K-12, to attend any Catholic school in Eastern Montana.

Amy was inspired by the story of a Billings student who was frequently in the news this spring. This high school senior had shown remarkable grit, persevering through a range of medical ordeals throughout her life. These difficulties interrupted her schooling and (understandably) put her on a slightly slower educational path than her peers.

Unfortunately, a school policy threatened to prevent this young woman from graduating with her class simply due to her age. It was yet another difficulty for her to overcome. A public outcry in response to this policy, as well as the dedicated efforts of the young woman’s family and classmates, eventually convinced the school board to change the policy.

Amy was deeply touched by this young lady’s story. While currently a flight attendant for Southwest Airlines, Amy notes that she, herself, was a special needs student from Billings.

“I remember praying the day I read that story, ‘Why hasn’t it gotten better?’ And I really feel like God said, ‘Well, that’s why I sent you.’”

She recounted, “I read this young lady’s story in the Billings newspaper, and that article really upset me. I was a kid with an IEP (individualized education plan), too…and it was hard. After so many years, you just hope that things will get better and that kids with special needs aren’t still facing those hurdles.”

“I remember praying the day I read that story, ‘Why hasn’t it gotten better?’ And I really feel like God said, ‘Well, that’s why I sent you, Amy.’” In the light of faith, Amy realized that she could be part of the solution to difficulties that special needs students face.

“You kind of just feel responsible to do something. It made me want to take action. When I reached out to ask if there were a way to fund an endowment that could help special needs students, the Catholic Foundation of Eastern Montana said we could make it happen. And it was almost like all those years didn’t matter after I heard that. They didn’t burden me anymore; they just inspired me. And even though I’m not super wealthy or anything, even though helping these kids feels like a giant task, it’s like that verse about the mustard seed. Jesus said, ‘If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, Move from here to there, and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you’ (Matthew 17:20). An endowment is like that. I can start it small and grow it little by little. Eventually it will be big enough to help everyone like me and like that young woman in Billings.”

This endowment isn’t just for the young people it will help, though. “It’s also a celebration of everyone who helps children like I was. I had good teachers, a wonderful neighbor, supportive parents. God gave me a lot of people who helped me along the way. I want to honor them, too.”

Here at the Catholic Foundation of Eastern Montana, we are so grateful for the opportunity to know Amy. It is an honor to help her thank those who have blessed her and live out her own ideal: to be a cheerleader for future generations of special needs students who will thrive in our loving and supportive Catholic schools.

Do you want to cheer on future generations? If you’d like to make Amy’s dream come true and support special needs students enrolled in the Catholic schools of Eastern Montana—or if you’re interested in giving to any of our 125+ endowments for Catholic organizations throughout our diocese—please reach out to Judy Held, President of the Catholic Foundation of Eastern Montana, at 406-315-1765 or [email protected].