Xavier University Preparatory School is in danger. The historically-black Catholic high school, located in New Orleans, is slated to close in July due to financial challenges. Xavier Prep has been owned and operated by St. Katharine Drexel and the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament since 1915 and has produced excellent leaders and progressive thinkers. The prestigious institution’s notable alumnae include Sybil Haydel Morial, mother of former New Orleans mayor Marc Morial, and former first lady of New Orleans, Mickey Barthelemy.
The all-girls school sends students to college at a rate of almost 95 percent, with 1/3 of each graduating class earning academic scholarships. It has been heralded twice as a Secondary School of Excellence by the U.S. Department of Education. However, Xavier Prep’s reputation will not keep the doors from closing.
“The Board of Directors, the School Administration, and the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament worked tirelessly to meet the financial challenges facing the Prep, but after reviewing the financial projections for the 2013-14 school year, the Sisters concluded that the Prep does not have a financially sustainable future,” the school’s president, Sister Patricia Suchalski, wrote in a statement posted on the school’s website.
Suchalski and other school administrators considered other options, including accepting financial assistance from the Archdiocese of New Orleans.
“We thank the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament for their ministry to New Orleans and Xavier University Preparatory School,” a statement from the Archdiocese read. “While Xavier University Preparatory School is not owned or operated by the Archdiocese of New Orleans, we did offer financial resources to the Sisters, but the Sisters, while grateful, declined our offer.”
The outlook is grim, but alumnae are fighting to save the institution. The Xavier Prep Foundation Fund is seeking donations to keep the school open and establish financial stability.
Jewel Bush, a writer and Xavier Prep alumna, has drifted from Catholicism, but is seeking a Hail Mary for her beloved alma mater.
“For me, it’s not about supporting Catholicism or the Catholic faith per se,” she writes in a column for Uptown Messenger. “There were many non-Catholic girls who attended Prep. It’s about preserving culture — black culture. Historically black institutions like Prep, St. Mary’s Academy and St. Augustine educate the underserved black girls and boys of New Orleans. Activism, civic engagement and cultural pride are as much a part of the curriculum as geometry and English.”
She also credits Xavier Prep for shaping her perspective of the world and her intrinsic value as a woman and leader.
“The Prep experience helped mold me into the ambitious, independent woman I am today,” she writes. “We were encouraged to debate each other in classroom discussions and challenge our teachers’ ideas. Prep is where I learned about true sisterhood, competition, self-respect and extended community.”
By some estimates, it’s going to cost nearly $10 million to purchase the school. But we hope a miracle is in the wings.
Clutchettes, to donate to the Xavier Prep Foundation Fund, click here.