Pittsburgh high school Nazareth Prep first opened its doors just four years ago, but the small school already boasts a variety of path-breaking programs, from its in-depth internship model to a new mechatronics pre-apprenticeship. Among the Independent faith-based school’s offerings is also a diverse and growing athletics program.
While most other schools its size have small athletics departments or none at all, Nazareth Prep has invested in a program that offers students a variety of ways to experience the benefits of team sports – and, increasingly, to build a foundation for success in collegiate sports. Since joining Nazareth Prep three years ago, Director of Athletics Latonya Salley-Sharif, M.Ed. – who happens to be the region’s only African American woman Director of Athletics at a co-ed independent school in the region - has expanded the school’s offerings from three sports and four teams to eight sports and 10 teams.
Nazareth Prep’s current athletic offerings, which adhere to a no-cut, all-play policy, consist of cross country (boys and girls), golf, football (through a cooperative sponsorship with Cornell High School), basketball (boys and girls), cheerleading, bowling (boys and girls) and baseball. The school has also become a member of the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) and the Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League (WPIAL), gaining greater access to competition and post-secondary options for its students.
“In our first graduating class, we had two students who now play collegiate football, and because of their athletic participation and ability to maintain our high academic standards, they earned financial support,” Salley-Sharif says. She notes that Nazareth Prep currently has two players who compete in Division III football and that the boys basketball team made the WPIAL playoffs within two years of joining the league. Because Nazareth Prep holds its student-athletes to high academic standards, they have more opportunities to receive academic and athletic aid in their post-secondary pursuits.
As the program continues to grow, Salley-Sharif is aiming for increased participation, especially among girls. She also hopes to enhance support for student-athletes striving to participate in, and receive financial aid for, collegiate sports. Additionally, she would like to build connections between athletics and the school’s physical education and fitness curriculum, to encourage a lifelong enthusiasm for healthful physical activity among all Nazareth Prep students.