By Len Altilia, SJ
As a Jesuit-inspired school, Mother Teresa Middle School in Regina, Saskatchewan, aims to instill the values of Jesuit education in the minds and hearts of its students, forming them as men and women for others.
April 15, 2016 — “Good morning. Welcome to Mother Teresa Middle School. My name is Elizabeth. May I show you around our school?”
The MTMS Summer Leadership Academy gives students an opportunity to lead, learn and live out Jesuit principles through a three-week summer program.
And that’s how a typical tour at the school begins: with the help of a poised, self-assured seventh-grade student who displays not only great pride in her school but also composure that’s anything but typical for a kid her age. But Elizabeth, a young First Nations girl from the inner city of Regina, Saskatchewan, is very typical of the students who attend Mother Teresa Middle School (MTMS).
MTMS is the first of its kind in Canada, a member of the NativityMiguel Coalition established in the United States. Nativity schools were created in urban centers to serve the needs of academically capable children from low-income families whose circumstances limit their ability to develop to their full potential.
Outdoor education experiences enhance the school’s science curriculum.
After meeting Mother Teresa herself, founders Paul and Carol Hill of Regina were inspired to respond to the needs of the poor in their city, especially the children, the majority of whom are members of First Nations communities.
Paul, an alumnus of a Jesuit school, had learned about the NativityMiguel Network and knew that many of these schools were established in association with the Society of Jesus. He approached the provincial of the Jesuits in English Canada at the time, Fr. Jean-Marc Laporte, SJ, to seek his blessing and support for the creation of a Nativity school in Regina inspired by the values of Jesuit education.
MTMS students are committed to justice and to developing a social conscience.
The dream was realized after three years of hard work and with the support of the Regina Catholic School Board and Campion College, the Jesuit liberal arts college on the campus of the University of Regina. MTMS opened its doors to its first class of 18 students in September 2011. In June 2014, 16 members of that first class graduated and are now attending high school. Currently, MTMS has 54 students and supports 34 students in high school.
MTMS aims to break the cycle of poverty among its families through a unique educational model featuring extended school time, small class and school size and continued support throughout students’ high school careers.
MTMS students and staff celebrate Mass at Campion College at the University of Regina with Father John Meehan, SJ.
Disparity in education and employment outcomes between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people in Saskatchewan remains one of the province’s largest challenges. The employment disparity is driven by differences in education outcomes, especially in high school graduation rates between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students. In 2014, only 40 percent of Aboriginal students graduated on time compared to 83 percent of non-Aboriginal students. While MTMS is open to students of all ethnic backgrounds, currently 82 percent of students are Aboriginal.
Student attendance is a critical school benchmark and a key focus for MTMS. From 2014-15, MTMS achieved an overall attendance rate of 95 percent for students and an overall attendance rate of 92 percent for its graduates in high school. All graduates are still in school and well on their way to becoming “men and women for others.”
Student athletes at MTMS.
MTMS is unique among schools in providing cura personalis, or care for the whole person. Students come from disadvantaged families and receive extensive support from the school, including: a full-time social worker, transportation to and from school, two meals and two snacks a day, eyeglasses, dental care, professional counseling, uniforms, enrichment programs and a summer program.
Through a combination of an extended school day and year, proper nutrition, remedial instruction, attention to health needs and other supporting services, the school has helped these students to grow in self-esteem, to recognize and appreciate their abilities, and to imagine a future that includes advanced education. The school’s Mentorship Program pairs students in seventh grade with mentors who provide valuable one-on-one support and guidance.
Learning to play the violin helps MTMS students develop a wide variety of other important skills.
The school also provides continuing support to students all the way through to the completion of post-secondary education. The Graduate Support Program bridges the gap between MTMS and high school, ensuring students are doing well throughout high school and helping them find solutions to financial, social and educational issues even after they leave MTMS.
Hands-on science taught by professors at the University of Regina during the MTMS Summer Leadership Academy.
As a Jesuit-inspired school, MTMS tries to instill the values of Jesuit education in the minds and hearts of the students, to form them as men and women for others, as expressed in the Student’s Pledge that is recited daily in the school:
In my words and in my actions,
I will try my best today
To live the values of St. Ignatius.
In my school work and in my play
I will treat others with compassion.
I’ll strive for excellence in school,
I will not argue, fight, or bully.
And I will follow all the rules.
I will believe in myself and my ability to succeed,
I will be responsible and honest
And I will help those in need.
As a Mother Teresa Student I will always do my best,
I will work as hard as possible
And let God take care of the rest.
Judging from the evidence — the students’ maturity, academic growth, consistent attendance and self-assurance — the school has met the challenge and succeeded in its mission.
[Sources: Educate Magis, English Canada Province Jesuits]
Do you want to learn more about vocations to the Society of Jesus? Visit www.jesuitvocations.org for more information.