By Alex Medina

Boyle Heights Beat

For over 60 years, Dolores Mission School has played a vital role in Boyle Heights, bringing the values of Jesuit faith-based education to thousands of children in the community. Now, the parochial school in the Pico Aliso neighborhood hopes to have a greater impact on the lives of current and future students, with a project set to expand its educational opportunities.

Within a year’s time, the school plans to have completed its biggest construction project, building a new facility and remodeling the current school. The new facility at Dolores Mission School will allow for 300 students – a 20% increase from the school’s current enrollment of 250.  The new building will house two classrooms, one for transitional kindergarten and one for kindergarten.

Groundbreaking ceremony at Dolores Mission Church. Photo by Alex Medina

“We’re excited to celebrate this new vision and new building for Dolores Mission School,” said school president Karina Moreno Corgan.

Like the Dolores Mission Church, the TK to 8th grade school is led by priests from the Jesuit order, known educators who have been associated with schools for some 500 years. According to Corgan, Dolores Mission school strives to help its students  make a positive impact in their communities.

“We’re passionate about education and teaching our young students about God and the best of human values,” said Ellie Hidalgo, the pastoral associate at both Dolores Mission School and Church. “We teach them how to be good people.”

Over the years, Dolores Mission Church and School have been working on advancing the futures of local residents. The non-profit Homeboy Industries organization, which helps support former gang members and formerly incarcerated men and women, started out at Dolores Mission.

The school primarily serves low-income families living in three housing projects surrounding the campus. According to a press release, nearly 70% of Dolores Mission School families earn less than $24,000 each year and 94% of students qualify for a free or reduced breakfast and lunch program. Thanks to gifts from individual donors and foundations, all students receive financial aid to pay for their education.

Trailer at Dolores Mission Church will be replaced with a permanent building with two new classrooms. Photo by Alex Medina

“You can get a great quality education here at Dolores Mission and open the doors for college” said Corgan, who says that about 70 former students are currently pursuing a higher education. “We have a lot more of our alumni that are in college now, more than ever before.”

The new transitional kindergarten class would allow for Dolores Mission School to help the community’s youngest members, starting their education earlier while allowing them to have an easier transition into kindergarten.

Besides these two classrooms, the new facility would bring meeting space for youth groups, parents, and school administrators. There are also plans for a school playground.

Phase 2 of this project would include renovations to the current Dolores Mission School building, which was built in 1950.

The total cost of the  project will be around $4 million. So far, individual contributions, gifts and grants totaling more than $3 million have been pledged to date. The church and school plan to raise an additional $750,000 over the coming year to complete the project.

Students, parents, school administration, and other community members came together to celebrate the beginning of the new facility project at a groundbreaking ceremony in early August. Jose Huízar, the LA City Councilmember representing District 14, and Miguel Santiago, California’s 53rd district representative, also attended the event.

“I’m really excited about happened here today because we know that every students that walks in through Dolores Mission School will have a transformative impact in our communities,” said Santiago. “It also has a transformative impact on the families who share this great school.”

Santiago said he goes occasionally attends mass at Dolores Mission, led by Theodore Gabrielli, the pastor at Dolores Mission Church and School.

“It’s a big day for the community,” said Gabrielli as he described the day’s event. “Anytime we are doing positive projects that are going to serve our greater community, it’s a good day for Boyle Heights.”

“This building is a beacon of hope and a source of great joy for the future of this community” said Gabrielli.

Alex Medina is a Senior at Bravo Medical Magnet High School.

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