How to start a school: Becky Guerra grows Boston Trinity Academy from idea to reality
By Bart Tocci | November 25, 2015, 12:32 EST
BOSTON – For Becky Guerra, committing to build a new school in the inner city meant moving there, too. So she and her husband, Frank, then a teacher at Roxbury Latin, upped stakes and moved to Jamaica Plain from their home of 15 years in Arlington.
“I didn’t want to be coming into the city from the suburbs,” Becky said about their decision back in 2000. “Didn’t feel right – didn’t sit right to go try to build a school that serves people from the city and we’re going home to the suburbs every night.”
Once they moved, they began meeting with members of the Christian community in Boston to discuss what it would take to start a school. It wasn’t to be just a Christian school in the city; it was to be made of the city. The school would strive for excellence, not only by developing top-caliber students, but also by ensuring that they would know the importance of community, faith, integrity and service. So was born the concept that would become Boston Trinity Academy.
The 16 founding board members of the nascent school, including her husband and Robert H. Bradley, the chairman of NewBostonPost’s parent Boston Media Networks, who hired her got Becky a mobile phone and a Post Office box, and for a while, that was the school. Frank kept teaching history and coaching football at Roxbury Latin as Becky got started.
“There was no evangelical Christian school of excellence in the city,” Becky said in a recent interview, explaining why the organizers saw a need for the academy. “The founding board members hired me to find faculty, find students, find a building,” she said.
In pursuit of her objectives, she began reaching out to churches in the city, including the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, Lion of Judah and the Emmanuel Gospel Center. To those who know her, Becky is persuasive, genuine and inspirational.
“I visited the Black Ministerial Alliance and spoke about the school there,” she said. She advertised on WEZE and at Park Street Church.
After raising awareness about the planned school, it was time to find the building. Temple Ohabei Shalom in Brookline, which houses a Hebrew school, looked like a promising location.
But temple officials had some concerns they wanted to discuss, and asked for a meeting. Becky was the only member of the school’s search committee who could attend, so she walked in alone.
“I was at this huge conference table and there were two Rabbis, the Cantor, the head of the Hebrew school, and there was the woman who does the curriculum at the Hebrew school, and there was the temple lawyer,” Becky said. “And they started firing questions at me.
“One of them was, ‘Do you read Hebrew scriptures?’” she said. She replied that she did and was reading the Bible’s book of Micah. “The head of the Hebrew school threw his pencil in the air, about four people slammed their hands on the table, and one them said, ‘That’s it, you’re in!’”
“The head of the Hebrew school, whose mother is the Rabbi, loves the book of Micah. So much so, he named their summer camp Micah. And his license plate says MICAH,” Becky said.
Becky and the school got the green light. The academy welcomed its first students, 54 of them, in 2002 with seven faculty and staff.
In 2003, Timothy P. Wiens became headmaster and within a few years, a fundraising campaign began that ultimately enabled Boston Trinity Academy to acquire a building in Hyde Park on a five-acre campus, where today it serves 230 students in sixth through 12th grade with 34 faculty members.
Becky, who had been a teacher at a Christian school in Arlington before starting the academy, is now dean of the middle school, where she still teaches 8th-grade English. It didn’t take Frank long to join her, either. He came aboard full-time in 2006.
In 2010, Frank Guerra became headmaster, replacing Wiens, who went on to become the head of the Delaware County Christian School near Philadelphia. Guerra still leads the Boston school today.
Today, more than two-thirds of the academy’s students, who come from Boston and suburbs as distant as Middleboro and Bedford, receive financial aid. While the school provides $1.7 million in support to students, those receiving aid still pay an average of just under $7,000 a year, rather than the full rate of $16,900. By comparison, the average private school tuition in Boston is $29,613, according to Private School Review.
The academy strives to reflect the community in its student body, with a current racial/ethnic makeup of about 37 percent white, 28 percent Asian, 25 percent black and 10 percent multi-racial or Latino. The students have excelled academically, with 99 percent of graduates winning admission to four-year colleges. Recent graduates have been accepted at top schools, including Harvard, MIT, Smith, Amherst, Dartmouth and many other leading private colleges and public universities.
Apart from academics, students participate in The Trinity Institute for Leadership and Social Justice through what are essentially internships serving in various roles around the community and in the wider world. They raise tuition money for kids in Nepal, for instance, while in Boston, they work on anti-smoking campaigns (the 84), anti-human trafficking initiatives (the Freedom Project), environmental activism (BTA Green), and helping homeless people.
In a city surrounded by elite universities and exclusive schools, Boston Trinity Academy stands out through its students, their performance and the communities they affect. And Becky Guerra can see her commitment bear fruit every year.