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Ciolli: Jennifer Lopez reconnects with the Bronx on Katie Couric's new show, giving Preston High School a boost

Jennifer Lopez speaks at the 29th Annual Walter

Jennifer Lopez speaks at the 29th Annual Walter Kaitz Foundation Fundraising Dinner at The Hilton Hotel on September 12, 2012 in New York City. (Credit: Getty Images)

Jenny from the block has finally come to acknowledge her real roots in the northeast Bronx.

It happened in Manhattan on Wednesday, during a taping of Katie Couric’s new talk show, which will air Friday. Jennifer Lopez will appear with four dancers, all students from her alma mater, Preston High School in Throgs Neck. Later she even tweeted about it and posted a photo of herself, wearing the logo sweatshirt and pajama pants the girls gave her, all in the school's signature maroon color.

The Katie show segment may be good publicity for Lopez, who is starting a world tour, but it’s an even better boost for Preston, an all-girls Roman Catholic High School that has educated thousands of the daughters of New York city’s working class since it was founded by the Sisters of the Divine Compassion.

Lopez graduated from in 1987. I graduated from there in 1970.

I never knew Lopez, but I know Preston. It’s a place for girls with dreams.

For many the waterfront mansion on the East River, just east of the Whitestone Bridge, was the gateway to a better life, a school where many of the graduates were the first in their families to go to college or on to a professional career. Preston is a haven apart from the struggles of the Bronx, or our families. It nurtured, disciplined, inspired and supported us, while teaching the lessons of hard work and community that were needed to make our dreams a reality. I often went back to that old waterfront mansion on the East River as a touchstone, for myself, and for the all the girls still to come.

Lopez didn’t.

That’s why this reconnection on the Couric show is a turning point. As a Preston trustee for many years, and a veteran of many development campaigns, I was involved in the struggles to keep afloat the school, which is independent of the Archdiocese of New York. Fundraising is especially acute for women’s institutions, which never had the fundraising success of all male schools. We could only watch as Regis Philbin, God bless him, kept Cardinal Hayes High School, on the other side of the borough, alive. We prayed for JLo.

We tried, raffle by raffle, to keep the place heated, and agonized over each tuition hike to replace the windows and pay the faculty a fair wage.

The school reached out to Lopez for support, a contribution, endorsement, or even an auction item for our many fundraiser­s. But the track star who appeared in school musicals wasn’t ready to reconnect, for whatever her reason.

But this week she again put on the colors of her alma mater and met Gabrielle Cruz '13, Angela Fragale ‘13, Amanda Socia ‘13, and Quori-Tyler Bullock, ’15, girls who have the same dreams she did.

So it’s a boost for Preston when the star tweets “Proud Preston girl.” And, I sincerely hope, a moment for Lopez to recall some very good memories.

Tags: Jennifer Lopez , Preston High School , Kate Couric , bronx

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