Students in graduation

Donor recognizes the remarkable initiative of teenage girls who proposed the
new division after their urban Catholic school closed in June 2020

December 2020

The Buckley Foundation has awarded $200,000 to the new Girls Prep Division at St. Benedict’s Prep, which launched its inaugural academic year in August. The School started the new Division at the request of girls whose Catholic high school closed last June. The young women, who had attended the all-girls Benedictine Academy (BA) in Elizabeth, took the initiative to approach St. Benedict’s to request that the renowned boys prep school start a Division for high school girls.

  The Group Leaders of the New Girls Prep Division

In a statement announcing the gift, the Buckley Foundation cited the extraordinary leadership of the girls in taking responsibility for their own education: “These high school girls have demonstrated serious leadership, initiative and ingenuity. Their story is a powerful one about fighting adversity to achieve a desired goal. Success here is bigger than any girls’ immediate educational needs – it’s about their creation of an institution that has the potential to impact students for years to come.” 

At St. Benedict’s Prep, a unique educational model amplifies students’ voices by putting them in charge of the day-to-day operation of the School, under the guidance of administrators. Not wanting to lose the sisterhood and community they had built as members of the Benedictine Leadership Team at Benedictine Academy, the girls first approached boys from St. Benedict’s to ask that they consider a new, separate St. Benedict’s Girls Prep Division. The boys’ answer was a resounding yes. The boys then approached Rev. Edwin D. Leahy, O.S.B. ’63, headmaster of St. Benedict’s Prep, to present their proposal. All of the students were adamant that they wanted to maintain single-sex educational models for both the boys and the girls. As a result, St. Benedict’s has instituted a parallel program for the girls ingrained with the same principles that have shaped leaders from St. Benedict’s for more than 150 years.

The Buckley Foundation is dedicated to advancing educational initiatives in New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. Its Board of Directors was inspired to contribute to the St. Benedict’s Girls Prep Division for the potential to create a powerful impact on the lives of urban girls, according to the foundation’s statement.

More than 80 girls, primarily from Benedictine Academy and Cristo Rey Newark High School, a co-educational Catholic high school in Newark that also closed in June, are enrolled in the new Girls Prep Division. The foundation’s statement noted, “The St. Benedict’s Prep Boys Prep Division has done an incredible job, and it is our hope that the Girls Prep Division can follow in their footsteps.” 

The Buckley Foundation’s contribution is the latest in a series of gifts from donors who have stepped up to support the new Girls Prep Division. Among recent benefactors is the Gold Dome Foundation, a charitable organization founded by Benedictine Academy alumna Mary Ellen Harris and her late husband, Robert H. Harris, Ph.D., a 1964 St. Benedict’s graduate. The Gold Dome Foundation’s $500,000 gift was evenly split between the School’s Girls Prep Division and the Boys Prep Division.

“We’re extremely grateful to The Buckley Foundation, the Gold Dome Foundation and other benefactors who have recognized the tremendous potential of the girls enrolled in our new Girls Prep Division,” said Michael Fazio, Chief Advancement Officer. “These donors understand that an investment in our kids – both young men and women – strengthens urban areas and creates life changing opportunities for St. Benedict’s students.”