Providing low-income, minority boys from Boston with the rigorous, affordable education that they deserve is part of our daily work at Nativity Preparatory School.
However, we see — as do the Johnson Scholarship Foundation and many in the education world — the serious need to help bridge “the last mile” for disadvantaged students. Progress in this area continues, but it must have the end goal in mind. We should applaud a test score improvement in our middle schools, but what if that doesn’t translate to high school success? We should celebrate a formerly-struggling student’s college acceptance, but what if they can’t afford to ever complete a degree?
At Nativity Prep — profiled by JSF President and CEO Malcolm Macleod in a post titled “Small, but Mighty” — a crucial part of our vision and model is bridging that “last mile” through investing in graduate support.
Staffed by two full-time professionals, our Graduate Support Office (GSO) offers targeted resources and programming to ensure that the academic growth, character formation and call to service of our graduating students is supported and encouraged through high school, college and beyond. Our results so far have been a 99 percent high school graduation rate, 84 percent college enrollment rate, and 64 percent college graduation rate, but we know that collaboration with others and sharing best practices can help us all do even better.
Here’s what our program looks like:
Academic: Going from our small, structured and supportive environment to elite, academically-challenging independent schools is a big transition. The GSO provides regular tutoring sessions and academic advising to our high school and college alumni. Each April, roughly 50 percent of each high school junior class takes advantage of our free college visit tour of top regional schools.
Financial: Despite working with high schools and colleges to get the best financial aid for our graduates, gaps as small as a few hundred dollars can be insurmountable for some families. Our Last Dollar Aid program fills those gaps, while a partnership with Nebraska Book Company, Inc. helps ensure that steep textbook costs don’t get in the way of academic success.
Social: Social transitions can also be difficult when minority students are so underrepresented in independent and higher education. Nativity Prep is always an open and safe space for our alumni, many of whom can be found visiting teachers and old friends each day. The GSO regularly checks in and visits with students to provide mentorship, remind them of available resources and let them know that the Nativity community is there for them. Connecting graduating 8th graders or high schoolers with other Nativity alumni at their new schools often provides a friendly face in a new environment.
Career: Tapping into our generous circle of supporters, Board members and volunteers in Boston, we regularly offer internship opportunities and networking connections for alumni to explore career options. Social capital can often be just as valuable as “educational capital.
As students move through primary, secondary and higher education, one educational institution can never provide all of the support and answers. Investing in graduate support and building a life-long community is our way of walking with them on the “last mile” of their educational journey.