Nativity Academy expands to fifth-grade

Damarco O’Bannon raised his hand while Jacqueline Guadarrama Ramirez, center, and Troya Harris, right, listened to a science lesson Oct. 9 at Nativity Academy at St. Boniface. All three students are fifth-graders. The school recently added a fifth-grade class to its program. (Record Photo by Jessica Able)

Damarco O’Bannon raised his hand while Jacqueline Guadarrama Ramirez, center, and Troya Harris, right, listened to a science lesson Oct. 9 at Nativity Academy at St. Boniface. All three students are fifth-graders. The school recently added a fifth-grade class to its program. (Record Photo by Jessica Able)

By Jessica Able, Record Staff Writer

Nativity Academy at St. Boniface added a fifth-grade class to its program when school began in August and welcomed 13 new students, bringing total enrollment to 92.

The independent Catholic school, which serves low-income families, already offered sixth- to eighth-grades.
Carol Nord, Nativity Academy executive director, said the addition of the fifth-grade is an important part of the school’s long-term plan.

“The younger you can work with students, the better,” said Nord during an interview at the school last week.
Enrollment at the school on East Liberty Street has gradually grown in recent years, she noted. “We’ve almost doubled our enrollment in the past five years.”

Next year the school plans to add a second fifth-grade class — one class for each gender. The middle school classes already are divided this way.

Some of the new students are siblings or relatives of existing Nativity students, Nord said, noting that word-of-mouth recommendations are often the most effective communication tools. The staff also reached out to churches and community centers to spread the word about the new fifth-grade.

“With minimum publicity, people were coming to us,” she said. “We already have 30 pre-apps (early applications) for next year.”
Nativity Academy is a non-tuition based Catholic school that offers its students a faith-based education. Hallmarks of the school, Nord said, are the small class sizes; the intent to serve the economically poor and marginalized; a longer day than traditional schools; a summer enrichment program; and support beyond graduation.

Because the school is not tuition driven, each year $1.5 million must be raised in order to provide education to its students, who come from 23 different ZIP codes across Louisville. Supporters of the school can opt to sponsor a student or simply make a donation.
Parents — who pay $20 per month — must attend regular parent meetings and complete volunteer hours at the school, Nord said.

There are Nativity graduates at each of the eight Catholic high schools in Jefferson County.

Nativity students give back

While Nativity students and their families receive aid from charitable contributions, they also make contributions to the Louisville community.

Last week, Nativity students participated in Give Local Louisville, a 24-hour day of giving. The students assembled care packages that included personal care kits, snack packs, art kits and fleece blankets, which were delivered to Wayside Christian Mission, Catholic Charities of Louisville and Kosair Children’s Hospital.

Students were rewarded with points for their good works. A benefactor donated $.10 per good deed during the Give Local Louisville project, a news release from the school said. Nativity students chose to give the contributions — which totaled more than $400 — to ElderServe, Bridgehaven, Kosair Children’s Hospital, Down Syndrome of Louisville and Ronald McDonald House.

Nativity Academy also benefitted from the day of giving. The school received $10,000 from members of the community during the Give Local Louisville campaign.

School makes campus improvements

Nativity is housed in the former St. Boniface School and is continuously renovating the building. The school recently completed some significant renovations and secured a long-term lease with St. Boniface Church, which included a new roof for the school building.

“When we ask people to consider sponsorships, it helps them to know we have a long-term home,” Nord said.

New heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems were installed and the lower level of the school was extensively
renovated. Walls were removed and classroom space was reconfigured.

“The fifth-grade is in the lower level; it’s like a little suite. It gives them a little autonomy,” Nord said.

The school is in the midst of creating a new strategic plan and a plan to further improve the school, including renovating the gym and cafeteria.

Nord noted that she and her staff of 20 could not achieve what they do during the 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. school day without a dedicated volunteer base and school sponsors.

She said she believes the mission of the school really drives people to become involved because it’s “compelling and captivating.”

“Poverty can be so generational. Education is key. Education can get them out of that cycle,” Nord said. “We are changing lives every day.”

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