Celebrating 30 Years of Impact!


The Nativity Mission Center was founded by the Jesuits as an all-boy, tuition-free middle school in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. It primarily served Dominican and Puerto Rican immigrants.


This started the unique Nativity model of education, which is explicitly faith-based, has an extended school day and year and walks alongside alumni with graduate support services.


While Nativity model schools do not share governance, they form a collaborative network of 50 schools across the United States and Canada.


Inspired by the Nativity model of education, the Jesuits founded Nativity Jesuit Middle School (NJMS) in Milwaukee under the leadership of Fr. Bill Johnson S.J. and Larry Siewert.


Nativity sought to serve Milwaukee’s rapidly growing Latino population. According to Latino Milwaukee: A Statistical Portrait compiled by University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee and the Greater Milwaukee Foundation, metro Milwaukee’s Latino population increased by 213% between 1990 and 2014.


Housed in St. Patrick’s school building on 7th and Washington, the first class enrolled fourteen sixth graders. Students’ first experience with Nativity was driving five hours north to Camp Thunderhead, Nativity’s academic residential summer program. This unique model of education, which included a year-round instructional program, was unlike any other school in the city.


Alongside Fr. Bill and Larry, many additional people were integral in the founding of NJMS including the academic leadership of Sr. Jean Ellman, SSND, Anne Otto and Rosario Sanchez. Tremendous dedication of faculty, staff and community volunteers provided a holistic and intensive model of education that our city had never before seen. Over the next three years, Nativity added a grade level each year to become a 6th-8th grade middle school.


Nativity graduated its first class. Early all graduates went on to area Catholic high schools, having mentors who helped guide them during those formative years. Four years later, Juan Martin ‘96 was Nativity’s first college graduate from Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa.


Nativity founded its Graduate Support Program with the goal of helping alumni persist and find success during their high school careers. This program paired alumni with community volunteers who served as mentors. To this day, Nativity provides academic, social-emotional, college and career readiness and tuition support to its high school-aged alumni.


Nativity moved to 1515 S. 29th St, which is just south of Greenfield Ave. This building was formerly ‘Marian Hall,’ a dormitory for the School Sisters of St. Francis, whose U.S. Province is headquartered across the street and began their ministry in parish schools. Over the years Nativity students have volunteered their time with the sisters. The partnership continues in small and big ways.


To address the needs of our families, Nativity began expanding to add an elementary program starting with our first ‘trailblazing’ co-ed K4 class. Vanessa Solis, Nativity’s president, served as the inaugural K4 teacher. Parents appreciated the ability to send their children to the same school from K4-8th grade.


With this shift, Nativity Jesuit Middle School changed its name to Nativity Jesuit Academy. In the following years, the addition of subsequent grades was carefully stewarded to ensure both curricular and cultural cohesion between the elementary and middle school programs.


During this same year, Nativity joined the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, a city-wide voucher program where eligibility is based on residency and family income.


Nativity underwent its Transforming Lives Capital Campaign, raising $5 million to expand and modernize its Milwaukee and Northwoods campuses. The expansions accommodated Nativity’s growth from 80 middle school students to the nearly 260 students we serve today.


This expansion included a complete renovation of the third floor of our Milwaukee campus which included four new classrooms, an upgraded library, STEM lab, new lockers and meeting spaces. Our basement was enhanced with the creation of beautiful and developmentally appropriate K4 and K5 classrooms. Other spaces in the building received cosmetic enhancements of new carpet, furniture and freshly painted walls. Main hubs of the building, including the chapel and the cafeteria, underwent significant upgrades. Additional houses were purchased to expand the parking lot. Nativity’s northwoods campus, Camp Thunderhead, also received a number of renovations to upgrade learning spaces and lodging for students and staff.


The 2023-24 school year marks Nativity’s 30th anniversary. Over the past thirty years, Nativity has remained steadfast in its mission of educating youth for lives of Christian leadership and service.


Nativity currently enrolls 256 K4-8th grade students, and serves 97 high school-aged alumni through our Graduate Support Program. 99% of Nativity students identify as Latino and 100% qualify for a School Choice voucher.

May 2024

Our “trailblazers,” the inaugural K4 class in 2014, will achieve two distinct milestones: being the first graduating co-ed class, as well as the first group of female alumni in Nativity’s history. This class has many “family connections” at Nativity as many of their siblings have also gone through our program.