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Small but Mighty

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.

Castiglione Class

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.

basketball team in a huddle

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

Malcolm and John Wronski

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.


Motivating Philanthropic Millennials

Fundraising professionals constantly look for trends in donor motivations.  We want to learn how to interest donors in the causes for which we work and lead them to support these causes generously.  Much has been researched and written on generational shifts in donor motivations.  Boomers and Gen Xers have similarities.  They give to the causes for which they can connect, either through a personal experience or that of a friend or loved one.  Some wealthy Boomers give because of an obligation, honoring the old adage, “to whom much is given, much is expected.”  Boomers are also more receptive to giving unrestricted funds, trusting organizations to use fund however needed. Gen Xers are technologically oriented.  They give online and tend to want to give for restricted purposes.

Millennials, on the other hand, are much less predictable.  We marvel at how philanthropically minded they are, yet we are just beginning to gain a clear understanding of what motivates them to give charitably.  We know that Millennials want to give to causes in which they can make a difference, and they seem to want to see their dollars in action. They want to meet the beneficiaries of their support and learn first-hand how they are impacted.  Millennials interested in owning their own businesses want to attach a social cause to their work.

We have surveyed new graduates at Palm Beach Atlantic University to see how we can engage the Millennial generation in supporting the cause of our university.  The results are giving us new ways to connect.  For example, one of the top three things that young alumni say they want to do is to meet and get to know other alumni for social and business networking purposes.  We have organized an alumni service corps that is planning and executing community service opportunities.  New graduates will work alongside of more seasoned alumni, making important connections, but at the same time, helping society.

We have also begun to invite young alumni to admissions events, so that they can participate in recruiting the next class of students.  This is a way to give Millennials hands-on involvement with their alma mater and perhaps, meeting the beneficiaries of their support!  At these events, new graduates can discuss outcomes, coursework, scholarship opportunities, internships and personal experiences with potential incoming freshmen.

A new event that we have added this past year was called Scholarship Day.  On this occasion, we invited our scholarship donors to campus to meet their scholarship recipients.  This event allowed students to show their gratitude to their scholarship donor(s), but moreover, they were able to see role models in philanthropy, which we hope helps plant the seed for their future support of PBA.

One of our most generous scholarship donors is the Johnson Scholarship Foundation, which impacts more than 400 students on our campus.  We are grateful for the longstanding support of the Foundation, which is helping to foster the next generation of graduates and hopefully generous donors to Palm Beach Atlantic University and other community organizations.

Mentoring: High School and Beyond

As a grant recipient of the Johnson Scholarship Foundation, Take Stock in Children Palm Beach County provides a solution for low-income students to break the cycle of poverty through education. Students enter the program in grades 6 – 9 and sign a pledge of commitment to keep their grades up, remain crime and drug free, and focus on attaining a high school diploma and becoming college-ready.  Our innovative multi-year program model provides wrap around services to students throughout their middle and high school years and continues through college completion.  The program includes mentors, college readiness, educational workshops, college and career guidance, college scholarships, and college retention services.

Mentor with mentees

Students who have the odds stacked against them are paired with a volunteer mentor who meets with them each weekly.  Mentors provide a sympathetic ear, a word of encouragement, and guide their mentees toward a successful future. The impact of mentors is boundless and serves as a powerful strategy to help rebuild the dreams of students in at-risk situations.  Stephenie, a mentee, recently wrote her mentor, “Words can’t express how grateful I am to have such an amazing person like you in my life. Thank you for changing my life. You have truly planted a seed in my heart and nourished it helping me to allow to grow. It amazes me every day to see how much I’ve grown from being the little insecure shy girl, to a confident beautiful young lady. I will never stop thanking you. You inspire me to be confident in myself and believe I can do it. Even though we live differently, nothing can come between the bond that we share.”  Mentor and mentee

We affirm the value of mentoring students along with wrap around services as evidenced by our 98% high school graduation rate. Although our students out-perform their peers, we know that in Palm Beach County less than 5% of low-income college students will complete their degree.  We also recognize the “drop off” in follow-up support services once organizations like ours have gotten students through high school and into college.

Thanks to the support of the Johnson Scholarship Foundation, we have expanded our services to include college retention. It is apparent that relationships built with students beginning in middle and high school should extend through college to better support them through their post-secondary journey.  Our college retention coaches build on established relationships aMentor and menteend provide one on one support to students as they attempt to navigate the college system.  They mentor students through financial aid and many other college related issues.  Monthly texts are sent to college students reminding them of upcoming deadlines and offering them motivational support.  However, most importantly our scholars know they are a part of our Take Stock in Children “family” and that we support their efforts as they pursue a better life for themselves.


Pathways to Education: Collaboration, Vision and Leadership

The Foundation frequently invests in collaborative efforts of grantees and also collaborates with other funders to invest in a cause. Many experts in philanthropy have come to see collaboration as a higher form of grant making and non-profit activity. Philanthropists should join together to exert concerted effort on problems they cannot solve individually. Those grant makers who go their own way are described as “operating in silos” and are compared to “lone wolves.”  Their ideas may be good but they cannot effect systemic change by themselves. The advantage of collective impact seems irresistible and most grant makers at least pay lip service to it, even if they do go their own way.

Pathways to Education, a Foundation grantee operating in Canada, illustrates the potential power of collaboration. Pathways has more than doubled high school graduation and college attendance rates for some of the poorest people in Canadian society. It has won international acclaim for its innovative approach and it is attracting interest and investment from educators, governments and the private sector across Canada. Pathways to education banner

The excitement over Pathways is hardly surprising.  Generational poverty has been an intractable problem and the remedy is education. Once young people have had their eyes opened and their horizons broadened by education they will not go back to poverty. Educating poor people out of poverty has always been a difficult business. Pathways has an audience because it has developed a system that overcomes the usual obstacles and produces results.

At an operational level Pathways collaborates with teachers, education officials and boards, municipalities, volunteers and, of course, school children and their parents. It gets funding and support from the philanthropic and private sectors, individuals and different levels of government.

Pathways is a perfect example of collaboration as a higher form of problem solving. But is collaboration the secret to its success?

Pathways is a story of a vision and the development of a system to give effect to this vision and then the building of a business. The essential ingredients to Pathways’ success are vision and leadership. It is a familiar theme. A small group of people uniquely understand and care about a problem, in this case educating disadvantaged youth, and have the courage and ability to do something.

We do not downplay the importance of collaboration in the Pathways’ story.  The vision for Pathways came from a community health center and from years of experience with diverse groups. Pathways has engaged and used a long list of people and organizations at every step along the way. Collaboration has been more than a tool. It has been a solution.

The lesson is not new but nonetheless needs remembering.  The best philanthropic investments will always involve collaborations of different interests. But the essential ingredients are vision and leadership and not collaboration for its own sake.