Winnipeg Jets Boss Helps Open a School in Winnipeg’s North End

Although I tend to write about issues at the macro scale, I’m also intensely interested in local issues.1 So today’s announcement of plans to open an independent Jesuit school in Winnipeg’s North End caught my eye:

A handful of prominent Winnipeg businessmen — led by Mark and Steve Chipman — plan to open a private, independent Jesuit school in the heart of Winnipeg’s poorest neighbourhood next fall that is designed to funnel graduates to St. Paul’s High School and St. Mary’s Academy, tuition-free, and beyond.

The initiative, to be called the Gonzaga Middle School, will start with 20 Grade 6 students selected from the Point Douglas area next year and will include a total of about 60 students (Grade 6-8) by 2018.

St. Paul’s and St. Mary’s have already committed to taking students who graduate from Gonzaga and meet application requirements — if that’s where they choose to attend high school.

I live in Point Douglas. My son could be friends with kids who go to this school a decade from now. By some people’s accounting we are the poorest neighbourhood in our city, so I’m beyond happy to see some rich folks taking a systematic, long-term approach to the systemic marginalization of poor—generally indigenous—folks in my neighbourhood.

Mark Chipman said the notion for the nativity school began over four years ago, partially born out of the involvement with inner-city hockey programs through both the Yearling Foundations (Manitoba Moose) and True North Foundation (Winnipeg Jets).

The founding group of members began first investigating then travelling to visit nativity Jesuit schools in Chicago and Milwaukee, among other cities.

Chipman became convinced the model could work in Winnipeg, too, and set out to recruit fellow St. Paul’s graduates. A steering committee including several inner-city community members was formed.

”I don’t purport to be an expert,” Chipman told the Free Press. “Breaking the cycle of poverty is very hard. But one thing that appears to work is education. That’s what this is about; giving families another choice, another path, to be educated.”

Currently, inner-city high school graduation rates in Winnipeg hover around 50 per cent, compared to 80 per cent in suburbs.

This won’t solve inequality in Winnipeg, but it’s some folks with the will and the means to do something, doing something. We need more of that. Mark Chipman is beloved in Winnipeg for bringing back the Jets, but this could be something with a real, lasting impact.

  1. Think global, act local is cliché, but basically correct. I think globally a lot and I’m starting to get better at translating that into acting locally. 


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