Three hundred and forty years ago, when Saint John Baptist de La Salle founded the Brothers of the Christian Schools, the lives of the Brothers were dedicated to the education of the poor children of the streets in France. He had given away his fortune, and swore that their work and their lives would rely solely on God’s providence, through the support of the communities in which they served. 

In the early 1990s, in response to a great need amid the streets of Providence RI, and with the blessing of our District and of the worldwide Institute of the

A student at The San Miguel School of Providence RI learns to play chess, which has been shown to significantly improve children’s visual memory, attention span, and spatial-reasoning ability.

Brothers of the Christian Schools, Br. Lawrence Goyette established the Miguel model. It was developed for middle school grades, so as to foster and build our student’s God-given gifts so they will have the tools to excel in high school and beyond. The model is named for Ecuadorian Brother, Saint Miguel Febres Cordero, FSC. The San Miguel School of Providence opened its doors in 1993. Today, there are four Miguel schools in the District of Eastern North America. The other three are La Salle Academy, Philadelphia PA; The De La Salle School, Freeport NY; and San Miguel School of Washington DC.

It could be said that Miguel schools are formed to survive through adversity, as they are designed as non-tuition-driven schools. This means that at least 80% to 95% of the cost of running a Miguel School must be paid for each year through donations, or as Saint La Salle would say, through God’s providence.

It is seen as important that the families of each student take ownership of the program. They are involved and invested from the very beginning, physically, emotionally, and financially, in their child’s success. However, understanding that our students and their families come from some of the most economically disadvantaged areas, tuition payments are set for each family at a level that they are able to handle. While family financial participation is often less than 10%, or even 5%, of actual tuition costs, the relationship that is built is immeasurably helpful in strengthening parental partnership in their child’s education. Knowing how significantly the home situation can impact student performance, we go well beyond financial assistance to the families. Counseling, providing good nutrition, helping with holiday traditions, and much more, are part of the San Miguel family experience. 

Students in science class at San Miguel School of Washington DC are very excited about their project.

Along with being non-tuition driven, characteristics that distinguish Miguel schools, and combine to create the strong educational and life experience of the program include: a faith-based environment, involving our students in direct service to the poor, extended day and extended year programs, strong family involvement, and maintaining contact with and support for alumni through high school and beyond.  Each school, while staying true to these essential features, has developed its own unique qualities to best serve the distinct needs of the local community.

Fifth grade students at The De La Salle School, Freeport NY are eagerly engaged during class.

Each of these four ministries is situated in an area where they can benefit from partnerships with local Lasallian schools and Lasallian alumni. An example of this fidelity is La Salle Military Academy in Oakdale NY, which closed in the early 2000s. Their alumni association, and many of their alumni individually, have remained as vital resources for our school in Freeport NY. In addition, each school has built local relationships with other secondary or higher education institutions, businesses, foundations, churches, civic groups, etc.

With the model of these schools built upon extensive personal involvement and support for students, families, and alumni, one might become concerned that the pandemic would have made their mission nearly impossible. On the contrary, however, our San Miguel schools and the services they provide have remained strong. Through the inspirational dedication, innovation, and personal investment of our faculty, staff, volunteers, and partners in the community, the feeling of community and support among our students has never faltered.

Maureen Appel, president of San Miguel School of Washington DC points out, “On top of all the life-changing instruction our students receive at San Miguel School, we know that we are also instilling in them a great sense of persistence and resilience.” 

Persistence and resilience have long been a key aspect of the Miguel model, and those qualities have definitely come to the forefront to make these schools and their students shine during the past two years.

Students make use of the library at La Salle Academy, Philadelphia PA.