Diocesan News

Nazareth Reverses Decision To Close

by Antonina Zielinska

Nazareth Regional H.S., East Flatbush, will once again open its doors in September. This is the news for which the entire school community has been waiting since the announcement was made in February that it would close at the end of the academic year.

After months of struggling against the odds, the Nazareth community has found a solution to save its school.

“This is a testament to not only our school community, but to our community as a whole, that we are not going to let places like Nazareth close,” said Terrence Fraser, senior.

Fraser worked with community leaders and politicians to raise awareness and funds. He gained the support of Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke, who then helped him reach other leaders including, Assembly Member Nick Perry and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio.

Providencia Quiles, principal, said Nazareth’s students played a vital role in keeping the school open. Even seemingly small student-run efforts, like bake sales and penny wars, contributed a great deal, she said.

“I am just so proud of the students,” she said. “They don’t realize how much of an impact they had.”

Nazareth will remain open thanks to alumni, teachers, staff, and students, who worked together and never gave up. She said the parents sprung into action with fundraising and lobbying efforts, the alumni brought in a steady stream of donations, and the teachers and staff clocked in many more hours than they were paid for.

“Our school is a school that really changes kids’ lives and it should not be a school that is closing,” said Nancy Roberts, school guidance counselor. “There are not a lot of strong schools around.”

“There are future generations of kids in my neighborhood who deserve an education like mine,” Fraser said. “So it would be selfish for me to not do everything I can to keep the school open.”

The senior said this was the reason he stayed after-school for hours doing everything he could to keep the school open. Even though it was hard at times because he had a demanding A.P. curriculum, he said it was well worth the sacrifice. He was also motivated by the desire to be able to visit the school that helped him enroll into Princeton University.

Quiles said she fought so hard to keep the school open to help the youth of Flatbush achieve dreams many of them would otherwise think impossible. She said she is devoted to the school in part because of her own history. As a Latina raised in Coney Island, she said, the odds of her going to college were against her. She said no one ever even told her she would need to take the SATs.  Now she is doing her absolute best to keep a school open that has a 99% Latino and black community and a 98% graduation rate.

Her dedication inspired many people to join her efforts. Among others, she brought on board Sharon Patrick, a former C.O.O. of Martha Stewart Living and the aunt of one of Nazareth’s teachers, to not only pull strings on behalf of the school but to also donate $20,000 and lend $500,000 to the school. Quiles said the school would be in a different place right now, had it not been for Patrick.

“We call her our angel here,” she said.

Patrick’s financial contribution is part of the $693,000 the school raised. It met 99% of a financial goal it set in order to remain open. Nazareth also exceeded its incoming freshmen enrollment with 81 students. This brings the school to 297 students registered for next year.

Although these numbers and the announcement that the school will stay open came as a great relief to the school community, Roberts said, it was not a surprise because everyone was “cautiously optimistic.”

She said she was amazed to see the confidence of juniors, who were at the greatest risk because they would have had to change schools one year before their graduation and would have had to navigate the college acceptance process in a new school.

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