More often than I’d like to admit I can get über focused on The Big Picture, but miss the things that are going on right under my nose. The Seattle Nativity School is one such thing that nearly slipped by, even though this STEM oriented middle school is hoping to open its doors in Zeno’s backyard.  Screen Shot 2013-01-17 at 9.27.32 AM

Nativity Schools are independent, Catholic middle schools serving only poor and at-risk youth.  According to the Seattle Nativity School website, the first Nativity School was started in lower Manhattan by the Jesuits in 1971. Since that time Nativity Schools have grown to 60 locations in 20 states. They offer free tuition, low student to teacher ratios (typically, 15-20 students per class), an extended school day and year, and summer support (among other things). All this is aimed at getting disadvantaged youth to graduate high school prepared for a college preparatory high school, and ultimately to graduate from college. Though they are run by a faith-based organization, a student need not be Catholic or for that matter, Christian, to enroll. If the statistics on their website are any indication, Nativity schools are doing their thing rather well — 79% of their alumni graduate high school in four years and 49% graduate from college or a trade school. These stats are some 20% higher than the national average for low income students.

The Archdiocese of Seattle has identified a need in the Central District and South Seattle areas of the city. Of the approximately 1,700 children under the age of 18 living in the area served by Bailey Gatzert Elementary School and Washington Middle School, some 94% students qualify for the federal Free and Reduced Lunch Program, making this one of the most poverty-stricken areas in Seattle. In an effort to address the achievement gap and to provide more options for disadvantaged students, the Nativity School will offer a STEM focused education. Feasibility and facilities studies are underway and though a site as yet has not been identified, Seattle Nativity hopes to open its doors in the fall of 2013.

So, this is what’s happening in Zeno’s world (we are located kitty-corner from Bailey-Gatzert in Seattle’s Little Saigon neighborhood). What’s going on in yours?

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