Guadalupe Regional Middle School celebrates 10 years of providing Catholic education - Brownsville Herald: News

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Guadalupe Regional Middle School celebrates 10 years of providing Catholic education

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Posted: Tuesday, August 23, 2011 12:00 am

Guadalupe Regional Middle School is celebrating 10 years of providing quality Catholic education to students for whom private schooling is almost always beyond reach.

The school at 1214 E. Lincoln St. on the grounds of Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church in Brownsville opened its doors to 30 sixth-grade students on Aug. 19, 2002. It is one of only 64 tuition-free Catholic middle schools in the country, the only one in Texas and part of the Nativity Miguel Network of Schools serving students from economically disadvantaged families.

“Because of the school model we’ve closed a lot of opportunity and achievement gaps,” school President Michael Motyl said Tuesday. “The classes are so small that the students get a lot of attention and they make a lot of progress.”

The school demands rigorous study. Its mandatory extended school day lasts more than nine hours. The student- to-teacher ratio is approximately 10 to one and there is an evening study hall from 5 to 7 p.m. two nights a week. GRMS has 87 students in sixth through eighth grades for the 2011-2012 school year, which began Aug. 17.

On Friday, students celebrated Guadalupe Regional’s 10th anniversary with a cookout, birthday cake and sodas in the school courtyard. Mayor Tony Martinez, president of the original GRMS Board of Directors, delivered special remarks for the occasion. Current board members and other school supporters also attended.

Later, Raymundo Peña, bishop emeritus of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brownsville, celebrated a 10th anniversary Mass at Sacred Heart Church. Peña had celebrated the school’s first Mass at its dedication 10 years ago. A reception followed at Martinez’s law offices in the “Old City Jail” at 1201 E. Van Buren.

“I can’t speak enough to the wonderful program that this is,” Martinez said Tuesday morning during a break between meetings.

“The kids do a superb job most everywhere they go. They’ve established a culture of success, a culture of service, a culture of leadership.”

The original 30 sixth-graders from 10 years ago by now have graduated from high school and are juniors at colleges and universities across the country. The schools they attend range from Boston University to Texas A&M, the Massachussetts Institute of Technology, Alaska Pacific University, Saint Edward’s and Saint Mary’s universities in San Antonio and the Rio Grande Valley’s two University of Texas campuses, UT-Brownsville and UT-Pan American in Edinburg.

All students from the first three classes have graduated from high school and 95 percent of them are attending college, the school said.

Motyl attributed much of their success to a graduate support program that tracks alumni and provides academic, social and spiritual support to them through high school and college.

He said about half of GRMS alumni go on to St. Joseph’s Academy under tuition assistance programs, with many of the rest attending the South Texas School District’s Med Tech in San Benito and Med High and Science Academy in Mercedes.

“Our kids come in here with big dreams and we want to make sure they have a chance to make them happen,” Motyl said. “They can do great things.”

He added that because attendance is not tuition-driven, GRMS relies entirely on financial support from the community, individuals, foundations and other organizations.

“People don’t know us fully. We’re tuition-free for low- to modest-income families and we’re unique. That’s why our alumni keep coming back to help with tutoring and other things,” he said.

Three religious congregations sponsor GRMS: the Sisters of the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament, the Congregation of Christian Brothers, and the Marist Brothers.

Motyl, who has led GRMS for the past four years, encouraged community members to get involved with the school as well.

“Anyone interested in helping with their time, their talent or their treasure is certainly welcome to do so,” he said.

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