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This Monastery Is Giving Newark Students a Second Chance

The monks at St. Benedict Prep have an unconventional teaching style, and it's working.

Father Edwin Leahy with student Cullen Jones
Credit: ©M.R.Scanlan

Like many cities across the country, Newark, New Jersey, is suffering. Nearly one third of its residents live below the poverty line and only 64% of its students graduate from high school. St. Benedict Prep school is working to change that.

Located in the heart of Newark, Father Edwin Leahy established this Catholic high school in 1973 with the goal of providing an a safe haven for its students. Today, the school is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and even allows its students to live in the monastery for however long they need a home.

The monks also allow the students to take charge of their education by putting them in leadership roles and teaching them to live by the school's motto, taken from a 6th century rulebook: "Anything that hurts my brother, hurts me. Whatever helps my brother, helps me." The combination of a safe and caring environment along with the monks' high expectations of the students is paying off.

St. Benedict Prep has a nearly 100% graduation rate and many students there believe they now have a chance at a better life. Senior Muqkadeen Poole says his experience at St. Benedict's has changed his whole outlook on the future.

"I thought I would only work at a Walgreens or CVS. It was through St. Benedict’s that I realized it was possible to make it," says Poole. "I want to now be a director, CEO of a corporation – the point I want to make is that I can now be any of those things. I can be whatever I want, and I love it."

Watch this touching video of Father Edwin Leahy in action:


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