Start up boys high school, modeled on St. Benedict's Prep, graduated its first class in 2022.
Kingdom Prep Lutheran High School
Start up boys high school graduates first class
In 2017, Kingdom Prep Lutheran High School was merely an idea, a response to alleviate the significant shortage of high school seats in Milwaukee’s school choice program. In 2022, Kingdom Prep graduated its first class, a group of 41 young men who’ve established a brotherhood, community and track record of success that subsequent classes are building upon.
Sydney Giovinazzo is a founding teacher and director of student experiences at Kingdom Prep. She noted the first graduating class was pivotal to the development of the school and its mission to, “Build a brotherhood in Christ for lives of purpose.” The connections forged, “Press upon the younger classes that the brotherhood does exist,” said Giovinazzo. The Class of 2022 also retains strong ties to the school, “So it’s really cool for our to students see that [the brotherhood] exists not just within the walls of Kingdom Prep.”
Milwaukee educators were introduced to St. Benedict’s Prep through the Center for Urban Teaching, a Christian nonprofit that prepares high-performing teachers and leaders for choice, charter and public schools. Organizers wanted to establish an excellent Lutheran high school that was also accessible to lower income families who qualified for Milwaukee’s school voucher program. In 2019, founding principal Kevin Festerling spoke about St. Benedict’s Prep’s influence on the Lutheran school serving mostly non-Lutheran students in an EdChoice podcast. “We’ve largely taken a lot of [the St. Benedict’s] playbook and brought it here to Milwaukee,” he stated.
Giovinazzo became acquainted with St. Benedict’s and Headmaster Fr. Edwin Leahy, O.S.B. ’63 as an undergraduate on a visit to the New York area with the Center for Urban Teaching to look at innovative urban schools. Eager for a teaching opportunity after graduation, she spent Summer Phase at The Hive, mostly subbing but also getting an in-depth look at Benedict’s core pillars: Community, Student Leadership, Counseling and Experiential Education. “St. Benedict’s offered a vision of what we could become,” said Giovinazzo, who returned to Milwaukee and joined the faculty at Kingdom Prep. “When you are doing it for yourself you have to adapt, but we’ve been able to make changes to best serve our students.”
St. Benedict's offered us a vision of what we could become.
There’s a lot of Benedict’s that is recognizable in the programs at Kingdom Prep. The school established Packs based on the Group System to foster acceptance, affirmation, accountability and authority, which is practiced in the Christian context of fellowship and brotherhood. They also hold a two-week Leadership Term for freshmen similar to The Overnight in that incoming students earn their colors as they progress through team building activities and challenges. The school added its own Endorsement Phase to Leadership Term where freshmen earn multiple endorsements, from multiple faculty members for demonstrating traits and habits such as, “Showing up,” “Don’t Settle,” and “Don’t Give Up.” Instead of a five-day Backpacking Project at the end of the school year, Kingdom Prep instituted a three-day wilderness expedition at the beginning of the year. Its tiered counseling program includes peer mediation, group counseling and private counseling.
Giovinazzo said Kingdom Prep is refining its programs based on what they’ve learned during the school’s first five years. Moving forward they would like to re-establish an exchange program involving students from both schools. Student fellows from the Fr. Mark Payne Institute conducted leadership training with Kingdom Prep freshmen during the school’s first year of operation. There were subsequent online meetings during the COVID-19 pandemic, but now the opportunity exists to resume in-person visits and exchanges. There is also the possibility that faculty from partner schools will have the opportunity to spend an extended period at St. Benedict’s, like Giovinazzo did.
The Kingdom Prep teacher says it was a worthwhile experience. “On a two-day visit you see the highlights,” she stated. “On a longer-term mission trip, you get to dig in. You get to dig deep into how things tick. It gives greater context into the programs you are trying to establish.”