Epiphany School

Epiphany students on the Circle (Epiphany School)

Epiphany students on the Circle (Epiphany School)

Here at Groton, both the students and the administration strive to integrate the ideal of ‘service’ into our everyday lives. Such an exciting goal has been approached in a variety of ways, and one way is through a partnership with the Epiphany School, located in Dorchester, MA, an independent, tuition-free middle school for economically disadvantaged children.
A four-week session over the summer provides an opportunity for Epiphany students to attend Groton for the summer intensive. “The program is great,” said Yowana Wamala, who took part in the program last summer, “it’s serving kids who wouldn’t have the opportunity to go to camp otherwise.”
During this time, Groton students serve as teachers in the class during the day and prefects in the dorm at night. “Working at the summer intensive was exhausting,” said Yowana, “but equally as rewarding. I still talk to the kids that I mentored to this day. The kids love the program and can’t wait for Groton every year.”
The Epiphany School itself was started by Reverend John Finley, who graduated from Groton School in 1988. His drive for community service started when he was involved in GCS, serving in soup kitchens and helping disabled children. He eventually decided he wanted to pursue a career that married both education and ministry. After graduating from Harvard University, Rev. Finley worked at Nativity Prep, a Jesuit school for economically disadvantaged boys that charged no tuition. “I worked over twelve hours a day, earning $200 a month and living in an abandoned convent,” explained Rev. Finley, “but loving every minute of it.” As for the ministry aspect of his career, he was ordained despite initial difficulties and was later advised by his bishop to open a school.
Rev. Finley realized that the tuition-free aspect of Nativity Prep was crucial. “Saying no to tuition in the beginning was very important to me,” said Rev. Finley, “we’re seeking the most vulnerable kids. Not the smartest, not the richest.” In light of this goal, Epiphany holds lottery admissions to decide which students are admitted to Epiphany. In addition, no child is ever expelled as the School has promised to “never give up on a child.”
The Epiphany School also is affiliated religiously with the Episcopal Church. However, the School does not require its students to adhere to these beliefs; in fact, the School is diverse, both ethnically and religiously. “Our goal isn’t to evangelize these kids,” said Rev. Finley, “we strive to have them articulate their beliefs more clearly.” There are regular student-run services held at the School where each grade takes charge of a certain duty. The 6th graders create the prayers, the 7th graders choose the readings, and the 8th graders deliver sermons, similar to the chapel talks at Groton. “Sometimes these talks reveal very personal parts of these kids’ lives and the rest of the student body is respectful of this,” said Rev. Finley.
Epiphany is open for over twelve hours a day, six days a week, eleven months a year. Even beyond middle school, Epiphany’s efforts for their students do not stop, as they reach out to their graduates throughout high school and beyond. The School provides an extensive and holistic education for their students, as well as opportunities that include a variety of sports and clubs like their literary magazine. The School encourages its students with a rigorous curriculum, moral instruction, and a number of different extracurricular activities.
The Epiphany School’s approach to helping their economically disadvantaged students lies in a commitment to provide as much as possible and establish meaningful relationships and connections with them. School days are twelve hours long, with three meals and two snacks provided on a daily basis, as well as a sports and study session along with classes. “It was a hard transition at first,” said Dowey Tran, a recent addition to the Groton community and a graduate of Epiphany, “but after a while you get used to it and you benefit from it as it goes on because it helps you manage your time.”
“You sort of get a community feel,” continued Dowey, “you’re always so close to your teachers because they’re always there. You’re with everybody for twelve hours a day, you know everyone’s name, and the teachers live down the street.”
The Epiphany School is essentially an embodiment of what Groton strives to be. Epiphany is a way of reaching out to those without the same opportunities we have and making a noticeable difference. Epiphany provides an education and a home for its students. It provides structure and rigor for children at a young age.
“It is no small thing to ask children at this age to immerse themselves into such a structured school day,” said Mr. Phillip Keefe, a Teaching Fellow at Epiphany. “It is truly inspiring to see their perseverance and backbone as they rise to meet the challenges.”
To work with Epiphany during the summer, students can contact the directors, Mr. Brennan Bonner (bbonner@eipiphanyschool.com) and Mr. Ryan Jones (rjones@epiphanyschool.com) directly.

Leave a Reply