A Blueprint

Submitted By:
Vincent Marchionni, St. Ignatius School, Bronx, NY

The Nativity Phenomenon: A Model That Works by Jack Podsiadlo
Manuscripts, LLC, August 11, 2023

The NativityMiguel network of schools consists of over 50 elementary and middle schools that provide an extended school day and year as well as graduate support and a faith-based curriculum. In a new book, Fr. Jack Podsiadlo, SJ, notes the humble foundations of the original Nativity Mission Center and its downfall due to the 2008 financial crisis and gentrification. The book ends in hope as Podsiadlo identifies other forms of creative, independent Catholic education for marginalized communities such as the Cristo Rey Network for high schools and the Come to Believe Network for junior college. The highlight of the book is the story of the development of the Nativity Mission Center School in 1971. The school’s mission had been around since the turn of the 20th century and served Italian immigrants. As the peoples’ needs grew, so did its programming: a nursery program, after-school programs, summer camp, and, eventually, a middle-school. The school itself was revolutionary, with a pedagogy put together by a counselor who knew the needs of the local students, twenty-five minute periods, extended study halls, and graduate support to follow students into high school. In short, as Podsiadlo puts it, it was an independent school that met the marginalized because it was formed by “risk takers [who] dared to do the unorthodox.” We see here a blueprint for future endeavors in independent, especially faith-based, education on the margins.

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