You may know Dr. Cheryl McKeiver from her role as weekly financial consultant on radio station 103.9 WDKX, or as the former vice-president and director of training and development at Citibank, but, in April, McKeiver took on on a new position, as the head of school and president of Nativity Preparatory Academy in Rochester.
The Nativity Preparatory Academy is an independent Roman Catholic middle school, which serves eligible and underserved students in the Rochester area.
The school’s student body currently consists of 40 percent African-Americans, 25 percent Hispanics, 17 percent Asians, 9 percent Caucasians, and 9 percent multi-racial students.
“I’m responsible for the leadership itself, to be that liaison between the Nativity network of schools,” McKeiver stated. “There are 64 Nativity schools throughout the United States. My position, as head of schools and president, is to oversee the academic piece, and the instruction, to make sure we’re on course. And then, the graduate support to make sure we also have the support for those students. And, of course, managing the staff, which includes the principal, and all faculty, and all staff as well. I am also responsible to the board, so I engage with the board as well.”
According to McKeiver, the Nativity model also includes an extended school day, with sessions that run from about 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. each day, and consist of academic classes, tutored homework sessions, enrichment, and athletic activities.
And, she said, the school’s successful student outcomes show, it’s a model that works.
“We have extended school days, so when the school day ends at 3 p.m., from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m., the students have homework time,” McKeiver stated. “So, they’re completing their homework while the material is still fresh in their minds. We also have a 98 percent attendance rate, and a 95 percent graduation rate. And, there was one student who went into the military. So, they do go to college, and the Nativity model works.”
According to McKeiver, Nativity’s model has been designed to not only support students in middle school, but to support them throughout their entire educational journey, which is a policy the school holds in place up to and including when its students begin enrolling into local high schools and colleges.
“We have a four, plus four, plus four model,” she stated. “So, we go from fifth grade to the eighth grade, and then, we’ve also developed relationships with local high schools such as McQuaid Jesuit, Bishop Kearny, and Aquinas, which allows our students to have the opportunity to enroll in those schools. Then, the next four years begins the graduate level. We also have wonderful relationships with colleges such as St. Bonaventure, and Siena colleges. And so, we’re able to provide support to our students on a college level.”
McKeiver said the private school has been fortunate enough to receive donations from corporations and other institutions to help pay its students’ tuition, and, out of 57 students overall, about 95 percent of Nativity students currently receive financial aid at the school.
“We understand that all students may not be able to meet the financial cost that goes along with attending the Nativity school,” she stated. “So, through the generosity of corporations and other institutions, those students are able to attend. We also hold fundraisers.”
Nativity is currently holding open enrollment sessions for fifth and sixth grade students, and McKeiver said interested parents can simply call the school to find out how to apply, or fill out an application online.
“Right now, we have open enrollment for fifth and sixth grades, because it takes about two years to get students up to grade level,” she stated. “But, if a parent wanted to enroll their child, all they would need to do is simply call us, or go online, and fill out an application. There is an entrance exam, to gauge students’ academic needs, and any other additional needs they may have. But, it’s not only based on income, and it’s not only based on the exam. We focus on the holisitic student.”
The school’s programs run for 11 months throughout the year, including a one-week summer camp for students in the summer, and a 6:1 student-teacher ratio during the school year.
Ultimately, according to McKeiver, the school prides itself on using a long-term approach to educating its students. As a former Catholic school student herself, she said it’s what drew her to the position in the first place.
“One of the things, for me, because I am a product of Catholic school education, was that I understood what it meant to be prepared,” she stated. “I understood what it meant to have, not only the rigors of academic preparedness, but all of the tools for what it meant for me to be successful. We also encourage parents to get involved in their child’s education. We have different parent classes as well. We teach resume building, and we teach financial literacy, because, of course, that’s what I do. And, I was always a curious learner, so it’s important to me to develop curious learners. So, I looked at how I could empower both parents and students to reach their ultimate goals. It’s just something that I love to do. My goal is to have every class at capacity, and my goal is to engage each student, and to help them reach their full potential.”