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Epiphany: The School That Never Gives Up On A Child

By Pamela Sosnowski

The Epiphany School of Dorchester is not a typical middle school. For starters, the days are 12 hours long and three healthy meals are served to students daily. But it's that longer-than-average school day that helps contribute to student success and reinforces the institution's mantra: "never give up on a child."

The Epiphany School is for young adults who come from economically-challenged backgrounds within the Boston area. Thirty percent of the classroom slots are reserved specifically for children involved with the Department of Children & Families due to abuse or neglect and children referred by Horizons for Homeless Children. Although Epiphany has an Episcopal identity, children of all faiths, races, and cultures are admitted, making up a truly diverse community.

"The goal of Epiphany is to ensure that children from economically disadvantaged families live up to their full potential and contribute actively to the society they will inherit," says the institution's founder, Reverend John Finley. "We want our students to graduate academically prepared for great high schools, but more importantly we want them to be young men and women of whom we can all be proud, who demonstrate the traits of Epiphany character: pride, respect, gratitude, perseverance, curiosity, thoughtful choices, courage, and compassion."

Founded in 1997, Epiphany is tuition-free and serves approximately 90 students each year. The small classroom size and extended school days give students the confidence they need to carry them into high school and beyond. The longer school day includes athletic training and extracurricular activities as well as evening study before dismissal. Families and graduates are always welcome to join their children for the evening meal.

Being situated in Boston's Dorchester neighborhood gives the school many opportunities to get involved with the surrounding community. "Two nearby charter schools use our facilities for their physical education programs, and a local church has its services here," says Finley. "In the summer we host B-Safe, a summer program for children in the 1st-4th grades. Melville Park, local civic association, meets here, as well as a range of other activities and programs. We are so grateful to be part of such a vibrant community."

Earlier this year, the school purchased land located a block away from campus to construct a new building and launch a new program just for infants and toddlers. The forthcoming Early Learning Center will provide the same private, tuition-free setting to Epiphany siblings and others from the community.

But as the school expands, the focus will always be on helping children achieve lifetime success, which is why Epiphany provides support even after its students graduate. "We provide abiding support through to college and beyond," says Finley. "This includes tuition support, summer jobs, college counseling, and help with employment. It is important to know that Epiphany's commitment does not end when our students graduate 8th grade."

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