The Story of Nativity Jesuit Academy

Fr. Bill Johnson followed his calling to become a Jesuit priest. He also acted on a calling to establish a school for Latino boys that would set a foundation to develop future Christian leaders in the community. Fr. Bill Johnson knew he needed a strong partner to bring his mission to fruition. In 1992, he contacted his former football coach at Marquette High, Larry Siewert. Larry not only agreed to help with the project, he left his position at Marquette High to serve the budding school full-time as its principal.

The humble beginnings of Nativity Jesuit Middle School were fostered at St. Patrick’s Parish on the south side of Milwaukee. The parish had a small school facility and the necessities needed to build the foundation for a new educational establishment.

In 1993, the school served 14 incoming sixth graders. And like other Nativity schools, it started its school year with a summer camp, which combined learning, prayer and typical summer camp fun.

The school continued to grow, adding more students to its rolls, and increasing staff, benefactors and supporters. With each year brought more success, and more students leading to a need for a new facility. In 2004, Nativity moved to its current location on South 29th Street, a few miles west of St. Patrick’s. The new school provided a modern and spacious setting to educate and guide Milwaukee Latino boys as they prepare for their futures.

Shortly after moving into the new school, Fr. Bill received another calling that would once again change his life. He resigned from his post at Nativity to serve as student recruiter for the new Cristo Rey High School in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Carrying on Fr. Bill’s legacy, the school continued to thrive under President Greg Meuler, Principal Melodie Hessling and Board Chairman Bob Wisniewski. Recognizing the need to start molding children at an earlier age, this leadership added a fifth grade in 2008.

In 2011, President Father Jim Flaherty, S.J. replaced Greg Meuler as the third president, bringing Nativity back under Jesuit leadership with a continued focus on the Nativity model, which is critically important for contemporary Jesuit education. The school captures the spirit of why St. Ignatius, the founder of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits), saw education as a valued ministry.

In 2013, Nativity celebrated its 20th Anniversary honoring Larry Siewert, co-founder and director of graduate support as he retired. Under the direction of President Melodie (Hessling) Wyttenbach, Principal Jim Wilkinson and Board Chairman Mike Zielinski, Nativity was flourishing, positioned for growth.

To address the needs of the Latino community, where there is a demand for quality Catholic schools, Nativity expanded to add elementary years, starting with a K4 class in the 2014-15 school year.  In the same year Nativity also applied for participation in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP), a city-wide voucher program for students seeking to attend private schools.  Considering the growth of the school from a middle school to primary grades, the school is now named Nativity Jesuit Academy.  Nativity adheres to the following vision for all students: Educating Youth for a Life of Christian Leadership and Service.


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