Back in February, a sense of grief swept the entire New Orleans community when the Sisters of Blessed Sacrament, a Pennsylvania-based order, announced it would close the all-girls Xavier University Preparatory High School at the end of the school year due to uncertain financial sustainability. As many prepared to mourn the death of Prep as yet another failed black institution, the school’s alumni base wasn’t quite ready to deliver the eulogy. They couldn’t bear to see St. Katharine Drexel’s dream wither. They fought, fundraised and incorporated to preserve the school.
Attorney Shantell Payton, class of 1997, is the youngest Prepper among the coterie of six alumni who bought the school, along with Federal Judge Karen Wells Roby, Clerk of Court Dale Atkins, Judge Piper Griffin, attorney Keith Doley and Judge Edwin Lombard (including male alumni, a nod to the days when the school was co-ed). Payton’s allegiance and love for Prep is boundless. She chose to attend Prep over Benjamin Franklin High School, the number one ranked school in the state of Louisiana, reluctantly following in her sister’s footsteps.