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Durham Nativity School eyes drive

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By Todd Cohen

DURHAM, N.C. — At Durham Nativity School, housed in several classrooms at Angier Avenue Baptist Church in northeast central Durham, 31 boys, most of them underprivileged and from single-parent families, spend 10 hours a day plus four weeks in the summer in school.

The boys also receive free tuition to attend the school, one of over 40 throughout the United States that use the extended-day, extended-year “nativity” model pioneered by Jesuit brothers over 40 years ago in Brooklyn, N.Y.

And if they stay in school, the school’s board has pledged to subsidize the cost of high school and college for them.

“We’re committed to 11 years of helping these boys,” says Richard V. Burton, director of development for Durham Nativity School.

Now in its fifth year, the school has produced two graduating classes totaling 13 students, all of whom still are in high school, including two at public schools and 11 at private schools in the Triangle.

Now, facing a need for more space and funding for scholarships, the school is planning a campaign to raise as much as $2 million.

The effort, which could begin its quiet phase in 2008, would aim to generate $1.5 million to buy and refurbish a facility to house the school, and $500,000 to increase the school’s endowment to support scholarships, Burton says.

The school’s board already has allocated $75,000 for the endowment.

Durham Nativity School was begun by Dr. Joseph Moylan, a surgeon at Duke University, and his wife, Ann Carole Moylan.

Looking for an educational model that might better serve underprivileged youth in Durham, the couple looked at charter schools and religious schools throughout the United States, a search that led them to the school in Brooklyn.

Durham Nativity School recruits rising sixth graders, marketing itself at churches, public schools, public housing, other private and charter schools, and nonprofits serving children and families.

The education model the school uses is not religious and calls for no more than 15 students for each grade, or a maximum of 45 students.

The school day averages 10 hours, no more than eight of which are spent in the classroom.

Students spend roughly four hours each Thursday performing community service, and two hours on each of two other days off campus at a YMCA or other location for recreation.

Students also spend four weeks each summer in an enrichment program, typically at the campus of N.C. Central University, taking courses such as electronics or photography that they otherwise might not take at school.

They also take summer courses tied to their core curriculum for the coming school year, and are tested to assess their progress in reading and math.

With an annual budget totaling $776,5000,000 for the fiscal year that ends June 30, the school depends entirely on donations to support its operations and programs.

The school counts on individuals, particularly its 19-member board, for 60 percent of its funds, on corporations for 35 percent and on foundations for five percent.

The A.J. Fletcher Foundation in Raleigh, for example, has provided $15,000 a year for the past three years for a scholarship for a Durham student who has been accepted by Ravenscroft School in Raleigh for the coming school year.

“We’re a donor-driven school,” Burton says.

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