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St. Peter Claver Latin School starts new year looking to grow

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Nancy Tunnat meets with some of the youngest students attending St. Peter Claver Latin School for Boys located on the campus of Old St. Mary’s Church in Over-the-Rhine. (CT Photo/Steve Trosley)

By Steve Trosley
The Catholic Telegraph

His desk is a Formica-topped table. His office décor is part store room, part closet.

Two mourning doves keep watch on him from outside on the windowsill nearby.

But when you ask Jonathan Love, headmaster of St. Peter Claver Latin School for Boys what he needs, his lightning-quick response is, “10 more kindergarteners and $800 for Latin textbooks.”

Ladon Madison, a first–grader attending St. Peter Claver Latin School for Boys joins in praying the Lord’s Prayer at an opening day service. The school focuses on underserved male students living in poverty. It is located on the Old St. Mary’s Church campus in Over-The-Rhine but draws students from all over the city, according to first-year principal and headmaster, Jonathan Love. (CT Photo/Steve Trosley)

The school occupies six rooms spread over three floors of a building on the Old St. Mary’s Church campus at 121 East 13th St. in Over-the-Rhine. Love calls his leased facility, a “classic building.”

Love says the boys attending the school used to come from the immediate neighborhood but now come from neighborhoods all over the city — including one from Anderson Township.

“Our biggest challenge is meeting the needs of the people we serve,” he said. “All the boys are coming to us from different backgrounds although all live at some level of poverty.

“If we can get them in here, we can transform them and get them into one of the excellent Catholic high schools in the area,” he said.

Part of the challenge he and his staff also face is what he called an antagonistic relationship with education from the families the school serves.

As an example, “Mom may not send the child to school for a week for no other reason than she didn’t feel like getting them up and ready to go. She may not see the value in the schooling,” he said. “We have to battle that. It’s the reality.

“Character and moral development is the core of most of what we do here,” Love said, explaining that the boys attend Mass at least once a week.

Father Al Lauer, a priest who lived and worked in Over-the-Rhine,
was inspired to start a Latin school for boys on September 9, 1999, according to the school’s website. It is no coincidence that his inspiration came on Sept. 9, for this date is the feast day of St. Peter Claver, a Jesuit priest who is the patron saint of slaves, both Colombian and African American, because these individuals were the focus of his life’s work.

St. Peter Claver Latin School for Boys officially opened in 2001. As Father Lauer said regarding the students, “…these young men are the future, and it’s my hope that after completing their secondary school and college education, that many will return as leaders to help revitalize Over-the-Rhine.”

St. Peter Claver Latin is a non-profit, independent, non-parochial Catholic elementary school that became part of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati school system on July 1, 2012. St. Peter Claver Latin holds a school charter classified as Elementary School (Grades K-8) from the Ohio State Board of Education and is exempt from federal income tax as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

The students wear uniforms and they are known as The Knights, with a new logo adopted just this year. Latin is taught as part of the entire curriculum.

If Love finds his 10 kindergarteners – and he says it’s not unusual to have a rush of enrollments at the last minute before classes begin – he’ll have an enrollment of 40 boys this school year.

Love is a 1989 graduate of Marian Purcell High School and is a graduate of Xavier University. He earned his master’s degree from Campbell University and has nine years in education.

President of the board is Joe Lanzillota; vice president is former headmaster Barry Williams; trustees include David Willig, Father David Endres, David Conners and David Herche.

Learn more about St. Peter Claver school at their website.

This story originally appeared in the September 2014 print edition of The Catholic Telegraph.

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