Nativity Academy uses grant to increase students’ safety

Christopher Reyes-Zuniga, a seventh-grader, left, and Emanuel Rogers, an eighth-grader, lined up at the foot of a stairwell located behind a newly-installed glass partition at Nativity Academy, 529 East Liberty St., Nov. 9. The partition was installed during a renovation project accomplished with a $25,000 grant from the Messer Construction Company Foundation. (Record Photo By Ruby Thomas)

School leaders at Nativity Academy at St. Boniface say the school was able to take an extra step toward ensuring the safety of students by installing a glass partition in the school’s entryway thanks to a recent grant.

Nativity Academy — an independent Catholic school that serves children from low-income families — was awarded a $25,000 grant from the Messer Construction Company Foundation earlier this year.

Ebony O’Rea, who is serving as the school’s interim executive director, says the grant was used to increase the safety of students, teachers and faculty at the school located on East Liberty Street. Before the safety partition was installed, O’Rea said visitors could easily access the stairway that leads to the classrooms and the entire school upon entering the building.

“We were able to add a glass partition, from the stairwell to the wall, that guides guests directly to the school’s office,” she said.

“We’re excited to have the partition there. It creates a boundary from accessing the stairway that gives access to the entire school.”

The grant also covered the renovation of the school’s conference room and moving the school office into a room in the building’s foyer.

Safety is always a concern for the school, located near the heart of downtown, noted O’Rea, who also serves on the school’s board of directors. The project, which was completed at the end of October, has provided “a sense of control over how people are accessing the school,” she said.

O’Rea said the relationship with Messer Construction Company has been “great,” noting that the company did not do the renovation work, but guided school leaders in finding the right people to do the job.

Erin Rasinen, who serves as a business development executive at Messer, said every grant application has to have the endorsement of a Messer Construction Company employee. Rasinen, who has had a long relationship with the school, endorsed Nativity’s application. Nativity Academy not only met all the criteria for the grant, but stood out because of the support the school offers its students beyond graduation, said Rasinen. Nativity has a graduate support program that serves 250 of its alumni who are in high school and college, according to the school.

“We admire the support they provide students not only when they are at the academy, but beyond,” said Rasinen. “They have a strong connection to students when they go to high school and college. This helps to guarantee their success.”

Messer Construction Company is headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio, and has 10 regional offices. The foundation, which was created in 2005, awards four grants per year.

Nativity currently has 77 students enrolled in sixth-through eighth-grade. Students returned to in-person learning on Nov. 2.
According to the school, 78 alumni are attending colleges across the country and nine are pursuing graduate studies.

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