The Story of Nativity Jesuit Academy
Rev. Bill Johnson, S.J. 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. Father 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 Jesuit 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.
In 2013, Nativity celebrated its 20th Anniversary honoring Larry Siewert, co-founder and director of graduate support as he retired.
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.
Just before the 2015-16 school year began, Sue Smith became Nativity Jesuit’s fifth president. At the time that Smith was approved by the Provincial of the Wisconsin Province of the Society of Jesus, Dave Murphy was Nativity’s Board Chair. Murphy commented that: “Sue brings consummate professional skills and a deep spirituality and commitment to build upon the school’s legacy of excellence.”
Nativity Jesuit’s growth plan continues as the school will become a full K-8 academy by 2023 serving more than 380 scholars on Milwaukee’s south side.