6/14/13 – Providence, RI – Adapted from an opinion piece written by Br. Lawrence Goyette, FSC and published in the Providence Journal
Twenty years ago, a series of providential events led to the founding of a new school in Providence — one that has since transformed the lives and futures of several hundred young men. This is the story of the San Miguel School — and a tribute to the hundreds of loyal supporters who first became acquainted with us by attending a morning assembly and shaking hands with our boys. No one who has done so has walked away unchanged.
Throughout my early teaching career, I was struck by the sacrifices parents made to send their children to private, tuition-driven schools. I saw a number of these schools close, unable to sustain revenue for their operation. In 1991, the Catholic school where I was teaching closed as well, and I was left wondering how poor families could ever hope to provide a good, faith-focused education for their children. I was convinced that education is the key to breaking the cycle of poverty, so the idea to begin a school to serve urban families in need began to form.
As a De La Salle Christian Brother, I turned to my regional provincial for support, and I was granted a year and $35,000 to find a location, staff, and additional funding for the effort. I turned to ready-made contacts within the Rhode Island Lasallian community, and I started meeting with educators and business and community leaders, seeking input, advice, and support. One overriding imperative emerged: A new school should focus on middle-school boys — vulnerable boys at risk of eventually dropping out of school or being drawn into the gang culture.
We explored many potential locations, always coming to a dead end. In the spring of 1993, a local school administrator made me aware of a day school about to close in South Providence. The board at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church had received numerous requests from organizations wanting to rent its vacant school building. In May 1993, however, the congregation voted overwhelmingly to let us begin San Miguel School there. The church’s most important gift was allowing us to occupy its building virtually rent-free during San Miguel’s first years. The generosity of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church and its congregation gave us a stable home and a foundation on which our school could grow, for which I am eternally grateful.