Catholic Free Press

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  • Nov
  • 14

Nativity grads come back

Posted By November 14, 2014 | 3:31 pm | Featured Article #3
Photo by Tanya Connor

Juainer Beato-Lopez and Jacob A. Kelley stand in front a display of photographs at Nativity School. The center picture shows them on graduation day from Providence College.
Photo by Tanya Connor Juainer Beato-Lopez and Jacob A. Kelley stand in front a display of photographs at Nativity School. The center picture shows them on graduation day from Providence College.

By Mairgread Gray
CFP Correspondent

WORCESTER – They graduated from the Ignatius Class of Nativity School in 2006, St. John’s High School in 2010, and Providence College in 2014. Juainer Beato-Lopez and Jacob A. Kelley are now back at Nativity School teaching as part of the Nativity Fellows Program.
Mr. Lopez and Mr. Kelley are the first Nativity graduates (of several) to receive college degrees. They are giving back.
Alex Zequeira, president of Nativity School, said that “nationwide, less than 10 percent of men of color from low-income homes graduate from college.  The fact that these young men have graduated from college and are providing education to young men like themselves is inspiring.
“We have a great sense of satisfaction that these young men have completed a loop,” he said.
Nativity School of Worcester is an accredited, independent, Jesuit middle school that provides a quality, all-scholarship education to underserved boys of all faiths, according to a school brochure. Drawing upon four pillars – strength, scholarship, character and service – a Nativity education inspires self-discovery, responsibility, spiritual growth and a lifelong dedication to learning, it says.
While in high school at St. John’s, Mr. Lopez came back to Nativity for support and guidance in choosing a college. Helene Horan, director of graduate support at that time, drew up a list of colleges that were appealing and were a good fit. Providence College and Assumption College were on the list and were his two top choices.
“I fell in love with Providence College after an overnight – ‘Night in Friars Town.’ I was accepted.” He was a social science major, studying psychology and sociology. Mr. Lopez received a financial aid package, and the Martin de Porres scholarship. In addition, he had a grant from Providence College.
Mr. Lopez was 8 years old when he came to Worcester from the Dominican Republic. He is now 23 and one of seven Nativity teaching fellows who live together at Casa Maria on Claremont Street.
In addition to his teaching, he is pursuing a master’s in business administration at Assumption College.
As a teaching fellow, Mr. Lopez and the other fellows, receive a living stipend, food allowance, health insurance, life and disability insurance, housing and utility expenses, local transportation, all paid for by Nativity. They also qualify for student loan deferment and AmeriCorps Educational Awards which can be put toward future educational costs or current educational debts. Nativity fellows may pursue many of Assumption’s graduate degree programs free of tuition costs, according to the Nativity website.
Mr. Lopez said that he and Mr. Zequeira went to lunch last year and Mr. Zequeira encouraged him to pursue a fellowship. Mr. Lopez did, and was accepted.
“It is all about enhancing your education and giving back to the community,” Mr. Lopez said.
Nativity Fellows, according to the website, “teach or co-teach three to four class periods per day in addition to serving as advisors, tutors, proctors, coaches, nurses, janitors, drivers, monitors, and managers of all other responsibilities that promote the students’ well-being.”
Both students and teachers put in a long day. The school day begins at 7:15 a.m. and goes to 5 p.m. When there is evening study, the day closes at 6:30 p.m. Sports and activities are held from 3:45 to 5 p.m.
Everyone is so engaged that the day passes swiftly, Mr. Lopez said.
He teaches religion, health, and Spanish to grade 7. He is the only child of Florinda Lopez of Worcester.
Jacob Kelley, also 23, majored in sociology and minored in black studies at Providence College. “It was a perfect fit and a perfect distance away. I could come home to my six sisters and little brother. He ( the little brother) graduated from Nativity in 2010, and is a freshman at Franklin Pierce University.”
Mr. Kelley had a Martin Luther King Jr. scholarship for four years from the college. Born and raised in Worcester, he too lives at Casa Maria while he is a teaching fellow.
“I am giving back. I wanted to go from sociology and get into a field that would utilize what I learned at Providence College. To do non-profit work in an urban organization that worked with youth … Nativity was the perfect outlet for that,” Mr. Kelley said.
He teaches health, religion, and technology to grades 6 and 8. He started work in July in the summer program. Now, he says, “I really genuinely enjoy it. It is extremely rewarding. It doesn’t feel like work. I don’t have a word to describe it. It is easy to come in; easy to come in at 7 or 7:20.
“It is a Catholic education. It takes a holistic view, and I’ve gone through it – Nativity, St. John’s, and Providence College. The holistic view is that you are educating not just the mind, but the person – to make decisions as an adult,” he said.