When St. Mary’s School in Niles, Michigan, applied to attend the Latino Enrollment Institute (LEI) in 2016, the school’s low enrollment raised initial concerns about its long-term viability. A small pre-K-6 Catholic grade school with a total of 56 students enrolled suggested an uncertain future, but Principal Sharon Gregorski was determined to see her school grow and its students thrive.
When Sharon learned of the Latino Enrollment Institute, she knew that it was exactly what her school needed to succeed. St. Mary’s Parish offered a Spanish Mass every Sunday, as well as a faith formation program that was well attended by Latino students in grades kindergarten through six, but most of her attempts to invite Latino parents to consider a St. Mary’s education for their children had been unfruitful. Conversations with Latino parents, which often ended with a sincere interest and expressed desire to send their children to the school, rarely translated into actual enrollments.
Principal Sharon Gregorski and St. Mary's teacher, Leslie Johnson, at the LEI summer conference
Sharon hoped that by attending the LEI, she would acquire a deeper understanding of Latino culture, as well as the tools necessary to reach out to this growing population in her community. Now, as a member of the sixth cohort of the LEI and just halfway through the school year, Sharon is already seeing the fruits of her labor.
St. Mary’s School offers a beautiful example of how a passionate and mission-driven school leader is far more critical to a school’s success than any circumstances or obstacles they may face. Following is a reflection from Principal Sharon Gregorski on her experience in the Latino Enrollment Institute thus far.