In the mid-1980’s Kiernan Moylan, the son of Dr. Joseph and Ann Carole Moylan, approached Hillside High School coaching legend Russell Blunt about training under him. Kiernan wanted to run in college. He couldn’t pay, but offered to do something in return for coaching from Coach Blunt. They struck a deal—Blunt would coach Kiernan, and Kiernan would tutor another of Blunt’s runners in math. That other runner needed to score on the SAT for college eligibility and a running scholarship.
Each day after track practice, the boys sat at the Moylans’ dining room table and worked together. Unfortunately, Kiernan quickly discovered that, not only did his teammate struggle with basic math, but he could barely read. When Kiernan asked how that could be, the other boy replied, “I could always run, so they kept on promoting me.”
Sadly, despite the boys’ efforts, with so little time and so much ground to make up, the runner did not qualify.
While Kiernan went on to attend college and run for his school, the other boy had few options. Unfortunately, he turned to gang life. Two years later he was shot and killed. Ultimately, though, his all-too-short life served a greater purpose.
Vowing to make a difference.
Kiernan’s father, Dr. Moylan, had developed the emergency trauma unit at Duke University Hospital. In that role, he performed surgeries on many youths who had suffered gunshot or stabbing wounds. He saw firsthand the horrors of violence — the damage, both physical and emotional, it could inflict; how it could tear apart the fabric of a family, a neighborhood, even an entire community.
The death of his son’s former teammate put a face on the problem and galvanized Dr. Moylan’s desire to reduce the senseless, and often gang-related, bloodshed. Dr. and Mrs. Moylan vowed that one day they would do what they could to help others avoid that fate and to make Durham a better place.
Once their six children were on their own, the Moylans acted on their promise to each other and to Durham. On the advice of their pastor, Father David McBriar, they began to research the Nativity Miguel Network of Schools. They visited schools in New York, Boston and Baltimore to learn what methods seem to work best. They discovered that a sustained rather than short-term approach to education was the most effective.
The Nativity Schools and their students invest in an eleven-year relationship, stretching from middle school through four years in a private high school and then four years of college. Compared to a national average of 33%, 62% of Nativity Schools graduates attend college. The Moylans decided they had found their model and began to refine their dream. They assembled a board of directors and, after interviewing candidates, selected a head of school in April of 2002. The doors opened the following August.
Now in its 13th year, Durham Nativity School and its have achieved much success. Its inaugural 8th grade graduates entered college in the fall of 2009 and graduated in spring of 2013. They are now employed in a diverse professions – from a teacher in local school to a human resources associate in the RTP area. (Find more facts about DNS Alumni here.)
This is Dr. Moylan’s vision and dream come to fruition.