Abell Salutes: Mother Seton Academy

March 2000 / Salutes / Education

Transforming the ideal into the actual.

Students entered the sixth grade of this inner city middle school performing at a fifth-grade-and-one-month skill level on the ACT test—behind the norm by eleven months. (The ACT is a nationally administered standardized test designed to measure children’s basic skills.) Three years later these same students had graduated at a skill level of ninth-grade-and-three months—not only up to grade level but ahead of it by three months. These students were “disadvantaged,” and receiving this education at no cost to the students’ families.

This education success story may sound like a dream, but in fact it is the actual story of what happened, and is happening day by day, at the Mother Seton Academy at 724 South Ann Street in East Baltimore.

The school’s history dates back only to 1991, when local religious leaders within the Archdiocese of Baltimore formulated plans for a creative educational venture that would meet the academic and social needs of low-income middle school children who are often precluded from attending Catholic schools due to their costs.

“Our results have been consistently positive from the beginning.”

According to the school’s principal, Sr. Mary Bader, “No religious community had the resources to undertake such a project alone, and so the effort became a joint one among six religious congregations with long traditions of service to Baltimore. Given the demographic economic changes which have affected the city, these congregations felt a strong desire to renew their commitment in a united effort, particularly to those in need.

“As a result, Mother Seton Academy opened in 1993 with its first class of twenty sixth grade students. Our results,” she says, “have been consistently positive from the beginning. These results are the consequence, I believe, of the combination of our tenets—small classes of no more than twelve, the commitment our teachers have to achieving success with the students one on one, the shared respect—teachers and students—for Christian values, and our total focus on academics. We offer no athletics or after school activities. The only after school activity is supervised homework!”

Parents of the graduates put it all another way. Nina Lewis is the mother of graduate Wendy Lewis. She says, “Mother Seton did wonders for Wendy. She is now at Catholic High and doing well, and much the better
for having gone to Mother Seton.”

And Sandra Howard, the mother of Seton graduate Ayrea O’Neal explains, “Ayrea was an A student in elementary school and we felt she needed to be academically challenged. Mother Seton provided that challenge, and today Ayrea is an excellent student at Mercy High.”

Sr. Mary Bader adds, “The school currently educates approximately sixty seven sixth-grade, seventh-grade, and eighth-grade students at an average of $5,000 per child—below the norm.”

Recognition for the school’s success is richly deserved, and The Abell Foundation salutes with enthusiasm the Mother Seton School, its leadership, faculty, and students.