By Marianne Salza
As the Advent School prepares for its 60th anniversary gala, “Advent at 60,” on May 6, staff, families, and alumni have been reflecting on six decades of inclusive education, and their aspirations for an impactful future.
“Our social justice mission is an education that you can’t get anywhere else in the city,” said Tori Frappoli, Associate Director of Advancement. “It’s more relevant than ever.”
The Advent School was founded in 1961 by visionaries, Dr. Mona C. Hull, and her husband, Gordon F. Hull. During a time of segregation in Boston Public Schools, Dr. Hull believed that all children should have access to quality education, with diverse classmates to combat racial injustice in local school systems.
The Hull Family attended mass at The Church of the Advent, a parish that supported Hull’s vision of integration by becoming the first home of the Advent School. On September 14, 1961, the Advent School welcomed 17 students, grades 1-2, with Dr. Hull as the director, and Jeanne Morrison as the only teacher. The school’s population steadily increased in the 1963-1964 academic year, and opened to children in grades 1-6.
Dr. Hull was also an educator and advocate for public health and policy. The mother of five worked closely with Boston’s mayor, Kevin White, (whose children attended the Advent School) to bring healthcare access to migrant farmers. Dr. Hull’s daughter, Berney Hull Graham, recently gifted her family’s piano to the Advent School, and shared a folder of newspaper clippings that her mother had collected during that time.
Dr. Hull compiled articles regarding racism in schools, and acts of aggression against people of color in Boston. There were also registration papers detailing tuition and fees, as well as a list of communicable diseases and guidance on quarantining.
“She was incredible,” beamed Erin Webb, Director of Development. “We learned much of this through documents her daughter had. We were able to see these sources, and it was amazing.”
When the school community outgrew its space at the Advent Church’s Parish House, the Board of Trustees purchased former residences, 15-17 Brimmer Street, in 1969, where the Advent School remains today. The Advent School is announcing a capital campaign to support building improvements, financial aid, and professional development.
“We are a community of learners, and everyone is always looking forward to living our mission in different ways,” said Frappoli. “If we want to continue this mission, we need funds to do that.”
Current Head of School Nicole DuFauchard is a strong supporter of Dr. Hull’s vision. The Advent School, which now serves early childhood to 6th grade students, discusses subjects regarding race and gender, climate change, and social issues.
“It’s been interesting to see how we’ve been taking big topics and breaking them into digestible ways [for students] to have deep thoughts and reflections,” said Webb.
The Advent School incorporates aspects of the Reggio Emelia teaching philosophy, a democratic, play-based approach in which teachers are learners with the children, and curriculum is based off of students’ interests.
“One thing they are focusing on is, who decides what gets put into museums, and whose views they represent,” explained Frappoli, about the 4th grade’s ancient civilizations theme. “Having these broad conversations with a social justice lens is helpful. It’s very intertwined.”
As Frappoli and Webb reveal the capital campaign, they hope to raise awareness about the inspirational projects and conversations that Advent students engage in.
“We want to continue this 60-year legacy, grow stronger, and make this building the best place for 21st century learning,” Webb exclaimed. “We’re cozy and hands-on; but we do need to upgrade because we’ve seen the impact that technology can have when something unforeseen happens.”
The Advent School gala, “Advent at 60,” will be held on Friday, May 6, 7-11 P.M., at Artists for Humanity, 100 West Second Street, South Boston. Learn more about Advent School history, purchase tickets, or support the school through a sponsorship, by visiting www.AdventAt60.org.