As the United States still struggles to successfully educate inner-city youth–especially boys–there is a school in the heart of Newark, New Jersey that is run by those very students while maintaining a 98 percent graduation rate.
St. Benedict’s Preparatory School nearly had to close its doors 50 years ago when the racial and political turmoil of the 1960s brought about the collapse of the inner city and ‘white flight’ to the suburbs, at a time when the economy was failing.
That’s when the headmaster, a Benedictine monk named Edwin Leahy, found the perfect guidebook with which to resurrect the school — The Boy Scout Handbook.
It is a manual for teaching boys to be independent and to become leaders. Leahy applied the lessons in that book to St. Benedict’s beginning in 1972 and let the students take the lead in keeping the school open and operating.
There’s an entrance exam and incoming freshmen participate in a “boot camp” where they learn how the school runs and what’s expected of them — often in military fashion, which instills trust that their classmates will help them not only in school, but in life.
Students refer to one another as “brother” and if one student doesn’t show up for class, his team goes out looking for him.
Leahy says this system he set up still allows students to make mistakes and bad decisions that fail. There’s a good reason for that, he told CBS News: “That’s a better learning experience.”
The private all-boys school has been overseen by the Benedictine monks of Newark Abbey since 1868. About 80% of all students are awarded with tuition and more than 90 percent of them go to college.
(WATCH the video below from CBS News) — Photo: CBS News