Cover Stories

Invest in Kids: De La Salle Middle School

The historic Ville neighborhood in North City is as far from an insulated suburb as you can possibly get. Unemployment, crime, teen pregnancy and infant mortality rates are high. More than 90 percent of the adults don’t have college degrees, and 36 percent didn’t graduate from high school. Most families live at or below the poverty level in single-parent households. But De La Salle Middle School is giving neighborhood kids a chance at a better future.

Established in 2001 by Christian Brothers of the Midwest, De La Salle provides innovative, high-quality, financially accessible education. “We nurture students academically, physically, morally and spiritually, transforming them and our community,” explains school president Melissa Brickey. Class sizes are small, about nine to 13 students, and individualized instruction addresses each student’s needs. Learning is extended beyond the bell with life-skills instruction, service learning programs and class trips, and all students receive financial, academic and emotional support through high school.

Most students come to De La Salle performing below grade level. “Not only do we get them up to speed, but more than 98 percent of them graduate from high school,” Brickey notes. “Of those, 80 percent are accepted in college or other post-secondary programs, and 64 percent of those who go to college stay there.” She credits this outstanding track record to motivated students, devoted teachers and parents, and adherence to the school’s core values of care, inclusivity, community, service, justice and zeal. “Every child deserves an excellent education,” she says. “It’s the most powerful, effective way to change communities for the better.”

Recently, De La Salle was granted charter school status, enabling it to receive public funding. “Beginning with the 2015-16 school year, charter status will allow us to have an even greater impact on the community,” Brickey says. “We’ll continue the academic rigor and support services our parents and students expect, and we’ll also be able to serve more students.” A separate entity, De La Salle Inc., will continue to provide ongoing graduate support and co-curricular programs, including after-school religious education, sports and arts classes.

“None of this would be possible without the combined efforts of our students, parents, faculty, staff, volunteers and donors, who share a strong commitment to our mission and vision,” Brickey says. Three longtime supporters were honored with Guiding Star awards at the school’s recent Catch a Rising Star event: board member and former tutor/mentor James Hill, a founding member of De La Salle’s charter school board; Christian Brothers College High School principal Brother David Poos, a member of De La Salle’s governance committee; and former cafeteria manager Barbara Williams, whose eldest grandson belonged to the first graduating class. “They represent the De La Salle culture of care and love,” Brickey says. “Miss Barbara, for example, provided cakes for every student’s birthday until she retired in 2012. That’s the kind of spirit, leadership and generosity that continues to keep us strong.”

Pictured: Proud graduates of De La Salle Middle School
Photo:  De La Salle Middle School

[De La Salle Middle School provides innovative, high-quality, financially accessible education in North City’s historic Ville neighborhood. For more information, call 314.531.9820 or visit delasallems.org.]

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