This past March, the REACH Program and the USA Northeast Province of the Society of Jesus collaborated to host a gathering for middle school educators throughout the Jesuit Schools Network. More than 40 educators and administrators from around the country attended the event titled “Colloquium on Race and Class in Jesuit Middle School Education.”
On the occasion of the 15th Anniversary of the REACH Program, Fr. Mario Powell, Director of the REACH Program, wanted to bring together the many different schools and programs that serve the Jesuit mission in the area of middle school education. In a letter inviting participants, Fr. Powell noted, “Over the past two decades, Jesuit middle schools and middle school programs have expanded consistently. The good work begun by the Nativity Mission Center in 1971 has been continued with the 1995 founding of St. Ignatius School in the Bronx, the opening of Nativity Worcester in 2003, and several other ‘brick and mortar’ Jesuit middle schools serving the urban poor in Boston, Washington, Baltimore and beyond. In addition, Jesuit high schools have recognized and responded to the needs of students of color and from low socioeconomic statuses by reaching out to these students during their middle school years.”
The purpose of the three-day summit was to explore mutual opportunities and challenges, share experiences, and strategize about how to continue to serve students of low-income and/or minority backgrounds. Among the topics addressed were “College Persistence and Completion Rates in First Generation and Underrepresented Students” as well as issues of curriculum, diversity, and inclusion. The gathering concluded with a strategic planning session in which groups formulated goals to recommend to their schools or provinces.
Robert Simmons, President of the Service Year Alliance, gave a keynote address. Daniel Perez, Executive Director of the Nativity Miguel Coalition gave a talk as well. Clyde Cole, Regis class of ’87 and one of the founding teachers for the REACH Program, spoke briefly about his new initiative Partnership for Boys, a non-profit that partners with parents, families, schools, and school systems to develop driven, engaging, resilient, and responsible boys and young men. In addition, the Partnership generously sponsored a meal for participants.
All in all, the gathering presented an opportunity for the REACH Program to learn from other similar programs, as well as share its own story and strategies with others. Perhaps most exciting were the participants who came to the colloquium to gather information as their own schools or provinces explore developing middle school programs similar to REACH.