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Nativity School marks 20 years, plans girls’ division to open in summer 2024

WORCESTER — After opening its doors to its first class of fifth and sixth grade boys 20 years ago, the Nativity School of Worcester announced it is launching a campaign to create a girls’ division of the school as well.

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The campaign was announced at a gala Saturday celebrating the 20th anniversary of the school’s opening, during which school leaders shared that $17 million of its $20 million goal had already been raised.

“I think it’ll really be meaningful for the girls that can come here,” said President Thomas McKenney. “It’s just an opportunity for them to really be empowered, and to really get the individual support they maybe otherwise wouldn’t receive.”

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Although there isn’t a deadline for the campaign, McKenney said the goal is to raise the remaining amount during the current school year so the school can welcome its first class of fifth and sixth grade girls during summer session next July.

“Certainly the continued success of the campaign will make sure we have the funding, even from an operational perspective, to make sure we can hire new teachers to open up in the summer of next year,” McKenney said.

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The campaign to raise funds for the girls’ division actually began with a “quiet launch” in October 2022, McKenney said, and since then the school has raised $14 million that includes a recent $3 million donation — the largest in the school’s history and the biggest gift in the campaign so far — from the J.D. Power family and Kenrose Kitchen Table Foundation, bringing the school much closer to its goal.

Because of the donation, which was announced at the gala, the girls’ division will be named the “Julie Power Girls Division” in honor of Julie Power, wife of the Worcester native James David Power III, founder of J.D. Power and Associates

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McKenney said it was a “privilege” to name the division after Julie Powers since she was a teacher who volunteered her time teaching English as a second language to immigrant children.

“I was definitely speechless when I first heard about the gift,” McKenney said. “I knew the J.D. Power family and the foundation have been supportive of our school for a while and really understand the power of education and believe in our mission, but we were really amazed.”

He said that the donation will help fund “a lot” of the initial scholarships for the entering classes of girls and help “in a lot of different ways.”

The Jesuit middle school, located on Lincoln Street, is.

While the campaign may have launched publicly on Saturday, McKenney said conversations about adding a girls’ division to the Jesuit middle school, known not only for providing tuition-free private school education to students but also for making national headlines in recent years for its battle with the Diocese of Worcester over its waving of LGBTQ Pride and Black Lives Matter flags, began a little over 10 years ago. But it was not financially viable, he said.

The school continued to revisit the topic over the years, however, eventually resulting in a feasibility study to see if it was finally financially viable, McKenney said.

“We also had meetings with family members, different graduates, community members to see, is there a need, is this a place girls would want to come to? And not surprisingly, families and others said yes,” he said. “Plus, from our feasibility study with fundraising, we found that donors were very interested in making sure girls could receive a Nativity education, so everything a few years ago came together.”

The school then went on to do planning work, laying out the campaign, as well as determining what a girls’ division would look like. The school was not only looking for one-time donations also but multiyear pledges to help with sustainability.

“Every dollar we spend, whether it’s on teachers or our building, comes from generous benefactors,” he said.

The school is also considering two possibilities in terms of housing students, including remaining and renovating the building on Lincoln Street or potentially purchasing a bigger space in the city.

“The good thing is, whichever of those directions we go in, we are prepared to open in our current building as is for the next school year, since we do have the space to make the first school year work,” McKenney said.

Whether they remain in the current building or move will be “dependent on the funds we raised.”

As president, McKenney said he was honored to oversee the push to open the girls’ division.

“I know we have a lot of work ahead, and it’s going to take great leadership by many in our community,” he said. “I definitely am very privileged to be in this role while this is happening and very excited to make our vision a reality.”

This article originally appeared on Telegram & Gazette: Nativity School of Worcester marks 20 years, plans girls division