“When a parent finds out their son has been accepted here, many burst into tears of joy,” says President of St. Ignatius Loyola Academy, John Ciccone. “They understand that this school can help their son transform his future.” The school motto, Educating Boys - Transforming Lives, has become reality for the many middle school students who have called the Academy home over the last 22 years.
Founded in 1993, the uniquely structured curriculum at St. Ignatius Loyola Academy has steadily increased the demand for this type of school serving boys of lower income families in Baltimore. The Academy occupied the building next to St. Ignatius Church on Calvert Street for 20 years. Fr. Bill Watters, SJ, who recently retired from his second tenure as pastor of St. Ignatius, saw the dramatic need for excellent education for boys from underserved areas in Baltimore and led the effort to establish the new middle school. In 2013, as a member of the school’s Board of Directors, he helped facilitate its move to a recently renovated building on Gittings Street in the Federal Hill area of Baltimore.
This larger, remodeled location will now enable St. Ignatius Loyola Academy to begin accepting students into its newly added fifth grade class next year. The school will then offer grades fifth through eighth. “Getting these boys a year earlier and providing them a four-year program to prepare them for high school will even better their chances at success,” says Ciconne.
While the 62% of male students who actually graduate high school in Baltimore is not a promising overall statistic, 98% of St. Ignatius Loyola Academy students go on to graduate high school, nearly half from Jesuit institutions around Baltimore and Washington D.C. Such a high success rate speaks not only to the teachers and program structure at the school, but also to its rigorous screening process. John Ciccone explains, “We only accept boys who want to learn and want to be around others who want to learn. This is the environment in which they can excel and successfully prepare themselves for high school and college.”
One of the other unique attributes at St. Ignatius Loyola Academy is the extended year program for all students. Summer learning loss is an adverse reality for kids everywhere, regardless of family status, but it is even more prevalent in lower income households. This backslide in academic skills and knowledge over the course of summer break is curtailed at the Academy by keeping students’ minds fresh and active through a summer-long school program. A combination of classroom and off-site learning engages and involves them throughout the summer.
During the summer program, boys at St. Ignatius Loyola Academy often participate in hands-on projects that teach real-world comprehension and awareness. This summer, seventh graders at the Academy engaged in a program through the Association of Maryland Pilots that educated them on the Port of Baltimore. They went on a boat tour of the port, worked on import/export projects in class, and met with congresswoman Helen Bentley, a major advocate for the port during her time in office. They also had guest speakers join their class. A representative from Maryland Environment Service, or as the boys call her; the “turtle lady”, made several appearances. They learned about the environmental impact of the port and the importance of keeping the Chesapeake Bay clean. They even got to handle baby turtles before their release back into the wild on Poplar Island.
As with all the students who attend St. Ignatius Loyola Academy tuition-free, next fall’s inaugural fifth grade class must be fully supported by financial sponsors. As the Academy looks to screen and recruit prospective boys for the incoming class, they are also actively looking for full, partial and team sponsorships to cover the cost of these tuitions. “While the cost to educate each student is significantly higher, a gift of $14,500 provides a scholarship to the Academy for a year,” says Katie White, Director of Annual Giving and Communications. “The Academy literally becomes their second home, providing schooling, mentoring, counseling and even breakfast and lunch most days. And after graduation, it provides graduate support through high school and into college.”
There is no doubt that the demand for this Jesuit middle school in the heart of Baltimore city continues to grow. In addition to the significant academic attention that prepares them for high school and college, the boys are forged through hard work and guidance to become compassionate men for others; or as they often refer to themselves, brothers for others.