New Catholic school hopes education will break poverty's cycle - Catholic Courier

New Catholic school hopes education will break poverty’s cycle

Weeks before school officially begins, fifth- and sixth-grade students enrolled in a new middle school for low-income and at-risk children in the City of Rochester have a lot on their plate.

There are trips to the Rochester Museum and Science Center, the Strasenburgh Planetarium, Letchworth State Park, Seabreeze Amusement Park, Genesee Valley Park, and educational and recreational programs at McQuaid Jesuit’s middle and high schools. They also will take several standardized tests to determine where they stand academically.

These activities are all part of Nativity Preparatory Academy’s two-week summer program, which starts Aug. 10. The program is designed to serve as an ice-breaker for the students, and as an introduction to the concept and structure of middle schools in the national NativityMiguel Network of Schools.

“The network’s motto is breaking the cycle of poverty through education, and we truly believe that,” said Nativity Preparatory Principal Joe Kilmade, who said he speaks from his experience as an assistant principal of San Miguel School in Tulsa, Okla., which also is part of the NativityMiguel Network. Kilmade, an Albany native, began working at the San Miguel School as a Lasallian Volunteer after graduating in 2006 from Villanova University.

Nativity Prep, an independent Catholic school affiliated with the Diocese of Rochester and sponsored by McQuaid and the Sisters of St. Joseph, will open Sept. 9 in the former St. Boniface School with single-sex classes in grades 5 and 6. In future years, seventh and eighth grades will be added.

In keeping with the structure of other NativityMiguel schools, Nativity Prep will feature an extended day (7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., which includes time for homework, sports and the arts), an extended week (Saturday field trips and enrichment activities), and an extended school year (the school will operate an annual summer program for new and returning students).

The school has enrolled about 20 students so far, and applications are still being accepted for the 2009-10 school year. To be eligible, applicants must be residents of the City of Rochester and qualify for the federal free- or reduced-cost school-lunch program. The per-child tuition cost is capped at $800 per year, but no one will be turned away because of inability to pay.

The school is seeking people or groups to sponsor the $10,000 per-pupil cost to educate students during the school year, or to provide financial donations of any size in support of the school’s work. At this point, school officials have raised about half the money needed to educate the students who have committed to attend, Kilmade said.

“We’re not going to deny a student an opportunity because we don’t have the money in the bank,” said Kilmade, who noted that in his experience, fundraising during the school year is successful.

Community volunteers also are needed to tutor students and provide help with such enrichment activities as art, music or sports. In addition to providing opportunities for students, volunteers also teach them about serving others.

“Because we are given so much, the students learn to give back,” Kilmade said.

The school is seeking donations of school supplies as well.

“We are trying to supply the building and the staff with what they need to be effective,” Kilmade said.

McQuaid students already have been helping the school achieve that goal, said Bill Hobbs, McQuaid’s president.

“We’ve already had students over there working during the course of the spring and the course of the summer, moving furniture around, cleaning and organizing,” said Hobbs, a member of the steering committee that is working to open Nativity Prep and a member of Nativity’s board of directors.

Several McQuaid students conducted a drive that collected 1,500 books for the school’s library. Parents and volunteers have been helping out at the school as well, he said.

Hobbs said McQuaid intends to enlist students, parents, alumni and faculty in helping the new school succeed. McQuaid students will be encouraged to take part in service opportunities at the school, including volunteering as tutors.

Tutoring already has been taking place throughout the spring and summer, said Dianne Crowley, Nativity Prep’s implementation coordinator. In addition to tutors, the school also will feature a graduate-support person, whose goals will be to help graduates to succeed in any career or at any Catholic private high school, public school or college. Post-graduate support is one of the reasons why the NativityMiguel Network boasts an average high-school graduation rate among its alumni of more than 90 percent.

“(Students) don’t just leave us and go off on their own,” Crowley said.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Details on Nativity Preparatory Academy are available by calling 585-271-1630 or by e-mailing nativityrochester@frontiernet.net.

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