Nativity Middle schools strive to empower low-income, vulnerable youth by providing a unique, faith-based education aimed at breaking the cycle of poverty in underserved communities across North America.

The Birth of Nativity Schools

The first “Nativity School” was founded by the Jesuits at the Mission of the Nativity in Lower Manhattan in 1971 to serve Latino boys from low-income families who were having difficulty succeeding in local high schools. Since then, over 60 Nativity-model schools have opened to pursue similar missions across the United States. These schools include all-boys, all-girls, and co-educational schools which are sponsored by a variety of religious groups, Catholic and non-Catholic, as well as one secular organization. Nativity Schools are continuing to open and in 2011, Mother Teresa Middle School opened in Regina becoming the first Nativity-model school in Canada.

Many of the low-income Latino boys attending Nativity Mission Center School were testing two and three grades below their grade level in the early 1970s prompting the teachers to develop a new approach to schooling. The school day was lengthened, almost doubling the amount of time the boys would be in school were they in the local public school. A commitment to maintain a low student-to-teacher ratio ensured time for one-on-one instruction.

The summer camp which the Center had been conducting was incorporated into the school curriculum, and, most importantly, Nativity made a commitment to follow their young alumni providing them with ongoing mentoring and support through high school and even on to college. The effectiveness of the Nativity model has inspired educators dedicated to reaching underserved and vulnerable youth to found schools modelled after Nativity Mission Center School and by the late 1980s, new Nativity schools began opening.

NativityMiguel Network/Coalition and Jesuit Support Network

Through the 1990s and 2000s as the number of Nativity schools grew, a group of similar schools started by the De Lasalle Christian Brothers under the “Miguel school” banner. In the late 1990s a network was formed which became known as the NativityMiguel Network that brought together all of these schools. Its purpose was to support the common mission of Nativity schools and to provide leadership training, curriculum and planning, program assessment, fundraising networking, teacher development programs, and summer program support for member schools and feasibility study programing for prospective schools. The economic downturn in the late 2000s and financial challenges faced by all Nativity schools led to an inability to sustain the Network. However, the Nativity-model schools that were part of the network continued to operate. In 2014, a group of thirty-five schools from across North America came together to form the NativityMiguel Coalition to continue much of the work carried on by the previous network. Schools belonging to the Coalition support one another and hold certain “core beliefs” in common (see below). By September 2015, 44 schools were members of the Coalition. There are currently 19 Jesuit sponsored or endorsed Nativity Schools in North America which will also be supported by the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States through the Jesuit Support Network (JSN). GMS will participate in both the NativityMiguel Coalition and the JSN.

The 9 Core Beliefs of a NativityMiguel School

Each Nativity school in their unique local context give life to 9 “core beliefs” in their school culture and practice which include:

1. Faith Based

A Nativity School is explicitly faith-based in its mission. GMS has adopted key elements of a Jesuit school’s mission by seeking “to develop men and women for others” and striving “to graduate students who are loving, intellectually competent, open to growth, spiritually alive and committed to doing justice.” GMS will support students of all cultural and faith backgrounds becoming hopeful, confident, morally responsible leaders for love and service of their families and communities.

2. Serves the Economically Poor and Marginalized

A Nativity School offers a financially accessible, non-tuition-based education to students from low-income families in impoverished communities and reflects the faith, cultural, and racial demographics of the local community.

3. A Holistic Education

A Nativity School addresses the academic, physical, social, emotional, moral, and spiritual needs of a student, and develops the growth of the student in all areas.

4. Partners with the Family

A Nativity School involves the student’s support system in the education of the child and provides opportunity for the growth of the support system.

5. Extended Day and Year

A Nativity School extends the hours and days that a student is in session and offers structured opportunities for learning, enrichment, and growth during that time.

6. Commitment Beyond Graduation

It is the expectation that any and all students in a Nativity School will graduate from high school and go on to some form of post-secondary education. A Nativity School offers a Graduate Support Program that eases a graduate’s transition into high school; tutors, advocates for, and maintains a connection with all graduates during high school; supports the high school in preparing the student for graduation and post-secondary education; and tracks the growth and achievements of all graduates.

7. Effective Administrative Structure

A Nativity School is governed by an effective administrative structure that includes a strong board comprised of leaders committed to the financial and academic sustainability of the school, and a working administrative team that attends to the operational and educational stability and vitality of the school.

8. Ongoing Assessment and Inquiry

A Nativity School is accredited by a recognized accrediting association as providing a quality middle school education that will prepare students for success in high school; and utilizes standardized tests and other appropriate assessments to track and document student performance and adapt the educational design if needed.

9. Active NativityMiguel Coalition Participant

A Nativity School is an active participant in the collaboration, support, and development of the NativityMiguel Coalition. This includes conferences and institutes, collegial visits, data gathering, etc. For more information on the NativityMiguel Coalition please click here (PDF 161KB).

Quick Stats about NativityMiguel schools:

Based on recent data from the NativityMiguel Coalition 

  • 86% of students come from families below poverty line measures
  • Over 97% of students are from ethnic or visible minorities
  • The average attendance rate exceeds 95%
  • Students are in school on average for more than 9 hours per day – about 3 to 3.5 hours more than peers in traditional public schools.
  • All schools have extended school years with mandatory summer camps
  • Over 91% of enrolled students completed the year with 6% transferring to other schools, and 3% leaving for behavioural or academic reasons.
  • Of the students who graduated from middle school in 2014:
    • 92% graduated from high school four years later,
    • 3% remain enrolled in high school.

Of the students who graduated from high school in 2018:

  • 65% enrolled in a 4 year college/university,
  • 18% in a 2-year community college
  • 4% in a vocational college or other specialized post-secondary program,
  • 2% joined the military,
  • 4% are working full-time
  • Member schools lost contact with 7% of high school graduates.

Of the students who graduated from high school in 2014:

  • 28% graduated from a 4 year college four years later,
  • 10% graduated from a 2 year college,
  • 4% from a vocational college or other post-secondary program,
  • 26% remain enrolled in a college, university or post-secondary program.

Historically, NativityMiguel schools show close to 90% high school graduation rates and almost all high school graduates go on to post-secondary study with about 50% completing a degree or diploma within 8 years.