May 11, 2015 — Nativity Preparatory School, a Jesuit middle school in Boston’s Jamaica Plain neighborhood, has transformed the lives of young men with a tuition-free, first-class education since its founding in 1990. In the past 25 years, 99 percent of its students have gone on to graduate from high school.
"All of the kids we serve are from inner-city neighborhoods of Boston, low-income families that are struggling with all of the typical things kids from the city struggle with," said Jesuit Father John Wronski, president of Nativity Prep. He cited violence in their neighborhoods, low expectations, or lack of resources — especially for education — as just a sampling of the problems.
The student body of 76 receives three meals a day, tutoring from alumni, and opportunities to participate in sports and other activities in a highly structured 12-hour school day. "We all spend a lot of time with each other, practically from 7:30 [a.m.] to 8 at night. Because of that, we're very close," said eighth grader Anthony Perez.
"It's kind of like we're brothers because we're all together, all the time,” said John Okafor, an eighth grader. Okafor, whose parents are Nigerian immigrants, will head to the rigorous Milton Academy in Massachusetts in the fall, hoping to pursue a career in science.
But at Nativity Prep, it isn't just about academics. Students are encouraged to give back and serve. "It's not just a place where I learned grammar and arithmetic. It's where I learned to be a man," said Hudson Evei, who graduated from the school in 1996. A first-generation American who grew up in Dorchester, Massachusetts, Evei is now a corporate banker serving on Nativity Prep's board of trustees. "I think a lot of the values I developed as a student there are some of the key tools I've utilized to get where I am," Evei said.
"It's really something to celebrate when you look at the stories of our alums and the professional success they've had in all kinds of fields," said Fr. Wronski.
As the school marks its 25th anniversary, one of the missions is to continue providing guidance and support beyond graduation. "We never let them go. They're always part of the family," said Winston Tuggle, director of graduate support.
Eighty percent of Nativity Prep students enroll in college and 70 percent graduate. The school hopes to grow those numbers with the help of a dedicated group of staff, volunteers and alums. "It's all about the people who are drawn here to give something back to the community," said Fr. Wronski.
"I came back because all the people who donated and gave their time to me just made a great impact in my life," said Anthony Docanto, an alumnus and Boston College High School senior who tutors students at Nativity Prep. "So, for me to take the time to come back and give back to the students is just a full circle." [Source: NECN Boston]