Just three years ago, a group of local religious and community leaders discussed creating a school they thought could change the lives of children in Northeast Pennsylvania.
On Thursday, 16 children, wearing crisp new uniforms and spotless saddle shoes, began at the NativityMiguel School of Scranton, which features longer days and summer sessions.
It was the realization of planning, fundraising and prayers — and the start of a new opportunity for the students at the tuition-free Catholic school that serves children from low-income families and underserved populations throughout the region.
“These are the kind of moments in your life where you sit back and think about how you’ve had a hand in building something special,” said Robert Angeloni, the school’s president.
The Catholic school, which is open to students of any denomination, is in the lower level of Temple Hesed, near Lake Scranton. On the outside of the classroom of Sister Maria Angeline, Sisters of Christian Charity, a quote welcomed the fifth-grade students.
“You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think.”
Inside, students used scrapbook paper, colored pencils and stickers to make paper quilt squares after reading the book “The Keeping Quilt.” After the students were done, Sister Angeline pieced each square together on the door — signifying that although each student is unique, they share a common bond.
Most of the students in the school are from the Scranton School District, though the school is open to students throughout the region. The school’s small class sizes and opportunities for individual attention appealed to parents, said Sister Josephine Cioffi, I.H.M., the school’s principal.
Outside in the temple’s parking lot, Sister Angeline bounced a ball to students. When they caught it, they had to say one thing they were looking forward to learning this year.
Math, reading, science and spelling, were some of the responses.
Originally from Allentown, Sister Angeline most recently taught in Bernardsville, New Jersey, and said she was excited to be the new school’s first teacher.
“I hope they find a welcoming environment where learning is fun and find a chance to get ahead,” she said.
Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary of Scranton and Sisters of Christian Charity, Eastern Province sponsor the school. Others that endorse and support the school include: the Sisters of Mercy, Mid-Atlantic Community; Marywood University; the Society of Jesus; University of Scranton; Misericordia University; Keystone College; Congregation of the Holy Cross; King’s College; Lackawanna College; and various civic leaders.
The Scranton school follows the NativityMiguel model, which is used by 60 other schools nationwide. The model includes longer school days, an extended school year with summer programs, opportunities for parent involvement and support throughout high school. Students will be in academic classes from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., and will receive homework help and participate in enrichment activities until 5 p.m. Students who live in the city will be bused by the Scranton School District, and lunches will be provided through an agreement with Meals on Wheels.
With only fifth grade now, another grade will be added each year, until fifth- through eighth-graders are enrolled. Founders estimate the school will cost about $1 million a year to operate. Mr. Angeloni continues to raise funds to operate the school.
Student Nahisha Pokhrel, 10, said she was anxious to start learning and did not mind the longer school days.
“If we have fun, I’d like to stay more,” she said before heading back to her classroom to begin her math lesson.