Regis High School, one of three Jesuit high schools in Manhattan (and one of six total in New York), is the subject of a Wall Street Journal article today detailing Regis's effort to make the school more available for minority and lower-income students.
The WSJ (subscription only) notes: "Every year, Regis High School picks about 40 fifth-grade Catholic boys with promise for an intensive boot camp that includes four years of summer school, plus Saturday classes every fall and spring. At the end, usually about a third of them have the grades, test scores and commitment to get seats at Regis."
Regis developed the program after realizing that too many students were unprepared for the school's high demands.
The school was endowed a century ago to offer a free Jesuit education to poor and immigrant boys, but the closure of many Catholic elementary schools over the years hurt the pipeline of well-prepared eighth-graders.
In 2002, Regis set up a three-year program called REACH—Recruiting Excellence in Academics for Catholic High Schools—to develop the potential of low-income middle schoolers.
"The farm system was drying up," said admissions director Eric DiMichele. "Rather than lowering standards, you're bringing kids up to meet these standards."
Several students in REACH said its focus on achievement got them thinking more seriously about college and their futures.
One is Uziel Dominguez, the 13-year-old son of a nanny and a deli worker. Now, he hands his phone to his mother when he tackles homework.
Regis's REACH program, or something like it, is probably going to become more common as Catholic high schools continue to struggle with inadequate public schools and the closure of Catholic grade schools. Brophy College Preparatory, the Jesuit high school in Phoenix (of which I am a proud alum), recently opened a middle school to accomplish similar objectives to those of Regis. It's called the Loyola Academy, and it's been a great success.
Those of us in Catholic education must continue to innovate and find similar programs, keeping these questions front and center: How do we make an excellent education, particularly one rooted in the Catholic and Jesuit tradition, more available and affordable? In addition to Regis and Brophy, what are some other models out there?