Nativity Jesuit Academy expands to serve Milwaukee’s growing Latino population

School has added 176 students, six grades in five years

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Nativity Jesuit Academy’s enrollment has increased significantly in recent years as it seeks to serve the growing Latino population on Milwaukee’s south side.

The school has added 176 students and six grades over the past five years, evolving from an all-boys middle school to a full co-ed K4-8 academy. Today it serves a total of 252 students.

The school is located at 1515 S. 29th St. in Milwaukee’s 53215 zip code, which has the highest percentage of Latino families in the state. Projections indicate there will be nearly 20,000 Latino children, ages 9 and younger, in the neighborhoods surrounding the school by the end of the year.

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“We’ve certainly watched demographics,” said Sue Smith, president of Nativity Jesuit. “It’s a burgeoning area for Latino children and it’s still growing.”

In addition to responding to demographic trends, the school has expanded in an effort to improve academic outcomes. Leaders noted that students were entering middle school behind grade level and wanted to have more time to work with the students during their formative elementary years.

“We said, ‘What if we had the opportunity to be with them for 10 years, from K4 to 8th grade?’” Smith said. “We would have a better opportunity to have them on grade level as they move through the program.”

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As part of the school’s model, Nativity Jesuit continues to track students after they graduate from middle school. Staff members check in with students and their families as they advance through high school and college. The school reports a 100% high school completion and 100% college acceptance rate among its alumni.

Nativity Jesuit students also participate annually in a five-week, residential academic summer program at a camp in Mercer, Wisconsin in an effort to mitigate the learning losses many students, particularly urban students, experience during the off-school months.

The school recently completed a $5 million campaign to fund renovation and expansion projects at the academy’s Milwaukee and Mercer campuses.

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Work at the Milwaukee campus included a renovation of the third floor that created four new classrooms, a tutoring space, a meeting room, an upgraded library, new lockers and a STEM lab, among other projects.

Nearly all Nativity Jesuit students participate in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, and the school raises about $1.5 million in philanthropic contributions annually to support its programs, Smith said.

Smith said the school continues to consider further expansion, but the priority is on maintaining its high level of staff-to-student engagement.

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