The Foundation has recently invested in Nativity Preparatory School, a small middle school for boys, grades 4 through to 8, inclusive. It has 5 classes of 15 students each, who come from economically disadvantaged families and neighborhoods. The school is situated in Jamaica Plain, a neighborhood of Boston, MA. It was started by Jesuits and is part of a larger network of Nativity Schools, which are typically small, faith based (not necessarily Jesuit or even Catholic) schools for disadvantaged students.
Almost all of the money required to educate these children is privately donated. Parents cannot afford tuition; they typically pay $250 per year but are expected to be involved and to volunteer. The actual cost is about $25 thousand per student.
Several things set Nativity apart. First is the 12 hour school day, from 8 AM to 8 PM. Classes in the morning, lunch, more classes and mandatory activities such as sports, drama music, art, newspaper, community service, mock trial, debate, chess, etc., dinner and then study. Second is the small classes. These children get a great deal of individual attention. Third is summer school in July, which they all attend. All of these differences give the school a great deal of control over the students and their learning environment.
Another difference is the “graduate” support. We don’t think of students leaving grade 8 to go to high school as graduates, but Nativity does and it has 2 full-time professionals to provide support to its graduates. It helps them to get into good high schools and to get scholarship aid, it helps them to get into college after high school and it helps them to persist in college and graduate, sometimes with “last dollar” financial aid. The graduate support program is also developing an internship program to take advantage of Nativity’s business contacts and to aid entry into the workforce. Two of Nativity’s alumni work at Wellington Management, a financial services company, which provides internship opportunities.
Every Nativity graduate completes high school and 80% of them go to college. This is remarkable because all of them are economically disadvantaged and most of them happen to be black males. Statistically, disadvantaged black males are among the least likely students in America to graduate from high school and go to college.
Nativity is a boys’ school. When reflecting on the desirability of this it is relevant to note that most university enrollments, including professional schools, are about 65% women. Boys are much more likely to be singled out as ADD and drugged during middle and high school. It seems that boys need whatever help they can get to succeed in school and go to college.
Nativity has excellent leadership and a dedicated faculty and staff. There is, near the entrance of the school, a board which contains a photo of each student, organized by class. In the graduate support office, there is a photo of each graduate currently in the school system. The office maintains a relationship with each one of them and supports them as they progress through the system. Each student is precious, valued and supported. The children are a delight; well behaved and respectful but not subdued. An atmosphere of respect for self and community permeates the place.
Nativity is a small school that produces mighty results. If you are a parent or a funder or interested in good pedagogy, check it out.