From a sweet-sounding chorus to an award-winning jazz band to a state champion soccer team, Belen Jesuit Preparatory School has everything a student could want. With the exception of one thing: girls.
"The students obviously have no distractions, they feel very comfortable among their own gender, obviously, because they don’t have to show off or look good for anybody else so there is more concentration," said Principal Maria Cristina Reyes Garcia, who is in the interesting position of being a woman who leads an all-boys school.
The boys of Belen are part of an elite private school environment in which academic creativity is encouraged and academic rigor is required. Among Catholic high schools, Belen is consistently rated as one of the nation’s leaders.
"So the academic program is incredibly solid, with all the AP classes and honors classes and AP Capstone, which we launched a couple of years ago," said the school’s president, Father Guillermo Garcia-Tunon.
Belen covers grades six through 12, so the middle school kids have built-in mentors.
"Jesuit education stresses on the formation of the whole individual, it is extremely important for us to make sure that their spiritual life is aligned with everything else that they do," said Reyes Garcia.
The current students are part of an incredible legacy which stretches back 162 years, to the school’s founding in 1854. In Europe, the Crimean War was raging. In Cuba at the same time, Jesuit monks were creating the Belen School.
"So we have students currently right now whose families have been in Belen five generations back," said Garcia-Tunon.
There are Belen alumni in South Florida who graduated from the school when it was still in Havana. Belen moved to Miami in 1961, shortly after Castro took power. Now there are Belen Wolverines all over the world. The school fields teams in 15 sports and boasts award-winning programs in the arts, music, and STEM fields.
"It's maintaining that tradition of 162 years, it still lives on today," explained Garcia-Tunon.