Photo: Grant via Flickr
Private school tuition has shot up so high that even the luxury set is taking out “pre-college” loans to cover the costs of their child’s education from kindergarten through 12th grade.But in Seattle’s Central District, where 94 per cent of families live well below the poverty line, that isn’t an option. And thanks to its poor public education system, at-risk children fell short of state and district levels in reading, maths and science in 2009.
Father Peter Ely grew up in the districts crime-ridden streets, and learned early on that education would be his only ticket out. Now he’s committed to closing the education gap and changing his “old neighbourhood” for the better.
Ely is at the helm of the Seattle Nativity School, an independent and free Catholic school that will educate students grades 6-8. Like the 60 other nativity schools in this country, the school’s curriculum will focus on the hard stuff, including science, technology, engineering, and maths (S.T.E.M.).
Classes will be rigorous, too. As Ely told KING 5 News, school days will run an hour longer than the typical 8 hours (9.5), and the school year lasts for a very long 11 months.
“We’re not doing the students any favours if we go easy on them,” he told KING 5. “These are kids who need intense help.”
The school is modelled after Manhattan’s “Nativity School,” which opened in 1971 to give poor Latino boys access to a high quality education in a nurturing, faith-based environment. What set the school apart was its ongoing assessment and inquiries into the students’ lives. Students were held back from slipping through the cracks, and today the Nativity Miguel network boasts a 40 per cent success rate for alumni graduating from college.
Ely’s spin-off is slated to open in the fall 2013 and will be funded by donations from the community.
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