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Our History

Now in our fifteenth year, Nativity Prep Academy remains the only all-scholarship private school in all of San Diego County and continues to serve over 200 students from middle school through high school to college.

Here is a brief look at our history:

1971 – The first “Nativity” school opens at the Jesuit Nativity Mission Center in New York City.

1999 – David Rivera, Founder of Nativity Prep San Diego, forms an advisory group in partnership with USD to open a Nativity-model school in San Diego’s most impoverished neighborhood.

2001 – Nativity Prep opens its doors to 19 students. Over the next three years, enrollment and funding increase by more than 200%.

2003 – Through the generous gift of a benefactor, Nativity moves from its original, leased location to a larger site at 3233 Market Street.

2005 – Nativity’s inaugural class of graduates earn acceptances to a variety of local high schools, including The Bishop’s School, The Preuss School, High Tech High, Saint Augustine, and Our Lady of Peace.

2010 – Nativity Prep moves from its Market Street site to its current site at Holy Spirit Church.

2012 – Nativity continues to serve 220 young men and women from middle school to high school to college, most of them second-language learners, all of them from low-income families.

We operate as a private, independent (non-diocesan) Catholic school, and we are privately funded. We opened our doors to 19 students in September 2001, with the goal of providing an all-scholarship, high school- and college-prep middle-school education to students and families who could otherwise not afford one. Our efforts to support our students for success in high school and in college include a high school admissions program and graduate support program, both of which are staffed with full-time personnel and part-time volunteers.

The historical roots for our school extend back to the 1950’s and to the efforts of the Society of Jesus (i.e., Jesuits) in New York City. The Jesuits’ inner-city outreach programs at the time included the Nativity Mission Center, located in the Bowery on the Lower East Side, and served a primarily Puerto Rican community of families. The Jesuits recognized that early intervention for these underserved, middle-school-aged children was necessary to save them from the ongoing cycle of crime, drugs, and poverty. They developed programs to alleviate these adverse conditions, with special attention given to a seven-week summer camp.

After two months in the Adirondack Mountains, and removed from the day-to-day struggles of inner-city life, the children flourished. It became evident, however, that to maintain the progress from the summer program, students needed an alternative to reentering the public school system. So, in 1971, the first “Nativity”-model middle school opened at the Jesuit Nativity Mission Center, serving approximately 20 students in the sixth grade. Since then, over 40 Nativity-model schools have opened in the United States, all of them serving low-income, impoverished students in a college-prep, scholarship-based educational setting and all of them based on the original Nativity school. There are now over 60 Nativity-model middle schools in the U.S. We are, however, one of only three such schools in all of California, and the only one south of the Bay Area.

Nativity schools seek to counter the overwhelming pressures of street culture and poverty by challenging and encouraging underserved students to reach their full potential. Nativity schools provide highly focused educational opportunities with excellent student-to-faculty ratios, extended-hour school days, and an extended-year schedule, daily tutoring, and enrichment and counseling programs. Noting that many inner-city public schools have dropout rates of 50% or more, Nativity schools have succeeded where so many others fail. Better than 92% of Nativity school students graduate from high school, as compared to the national rate of 55% for African-American and Hispanic students, and the four-year dropout rate for the high school graduation classes from Nativity schools from five years ago (2007) was a mere 6%. A combined 96% of Nativity school graduates who completed high school in 2014 enrolled in a two- or four-year college in the fall of that same year.

In an effort to continue the Nativity legacy of success for San Diego’s inner-city students, Nativity Prep Academy filed for incorporation in December of 1999 in the State of California as a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization, under the aegis of an independent, lay board of trustees.

We currently serve 60+ students in grades six, seven, and eight and more then 160 of our students in a 4-year college. We offer a comprehensive, college-prep educational program in a private-school setting. We maintain an average student-to-teacher ratio of 6:1, allowing teachers to provide students with the personalized attention they need.

In September of 2001, we enrolled 19 students in the fifth grade; and in each subsequent year, through 2003, we increased our enrollment by graduating students to “upper” grade-levels—in 2002, we enrolled 20 new fifth graders, and our rising fifth graders moved on to sixth grade, giving us 40 students in fifth and sixth combined; and in 2003, we enrolled 20 fifth graders again, and our rising fifth and sixth grade students moved on to sixth and seventh grades, respectively, giving us a combined enrollment of 60 students. In 2004, and continuing through the present, we discontinued enrollment for incoming fifth graders and moved to a three-grade model of instruction in sixth, seventh, and eight grades, with a capacity enrollment of 60+ students and an average of 20 students per grade.

In 2003, we moved from our initial ‘storefront’ location at 3275 Market Street to our 3233 Market Street site. In July of 2010, our Board approved the transition and move to our current site at Holy Spirit Church, 2755 55th Street. The initial school site was leased commercial space, with one main office (administration) and one classroom for our fifth graders, and a leased trailer-classroom for our sixth graders. The deed of ownership for our current site belongs to Holy Spirit Church, which has extended a 50-year lease to our school.

  • At little to no cost for our families, we offer a comprehensive, college-prep education in a private-school setting.
  • In the past thirty years, more than 40 Nativity-model schools have opened in the United States.
  • Since 2001, our student enrollment has grown by more than 200%.
  • Now in our tenth year, Nativity Prep remains the only all-scholarship private school in all of San Diego County.