The neighborhood surrounding the Nativity Mission Center, a Jesuit-run middle school on Manhattan's Lower East Side, has undergone significant changes over the past few decades. Increasing gentrification has resulted in positive changes, like fewer worries about prostitutes or neighborhood drug dealers wandering around the school—but it's also posed some challenges. The school's mission is to serve the children of poor families, but as rents increase the families most in need have moved away. For Rev. Jack Podsiadlo, the school's president, the solution is deceptively simple: if the school's target pupils can't afford to live near the school, he'll move the school closer to the students. Today's New York Times has a great article describing the challenges facing the school, not to mention the ones it already has overcome:
A week after sending their latest graduates off to high schools like Fordham Prep and Xavier, Father Podsiadlo and his assistant ventured up to the South Bronx to scout out a new neighborhood. Armed with citywide reports on poverty and education — and their keen sense of need, honed over decades teaching the poor — they walked along busy commercial strips, ducked into cool, quiet churches and chatted with residents lounging on stoops.
Where outsiders might have seen only poverty, they saw possibility. “We serve the poor,” said Father Podsiadlo, who has worked at the Lower East Side school since 1973. “If they’re not here, then we’ll move to where they are.”
...One model Father Podsiadlo is considering is based on a partnership pioneered in St. Louis, where a Nativity middle school moved into an established parochial school. The Nativity school — which assumed responsibility for running grades six through eight — acquired more space, while the parochial school was able to redirect money to its lower grades.