Darrius' Story The Pius XI difference

We are a family

“I don’t really remember exactly how it happened,” says Darrius Nance '13. “Friendship turned into love and that turned into a family.” Just that simple.

Darrius came to Pius XI from Catholic East. He was a good basketball player and became friends with some of the boys on the freshman team, including Charlie Burnett.

While Charlie had two parents, Larry Burnett and Mimi Foley, who made sure he ate a good breakfast every day, had rides to and from school and activities and oversight of school work, Darrius had none of those.

Darrius lived with his Mom and sister two bus rides away. He slept on a broken futon. If the electricity wasn’t turned off, he had light, but no computer or internet to do homework. He never ate breakfast and usually didn’t eat lunch either.

Darrius had to take care of a Mom who wasn’t able to care for herself, much less her other children, and the weight of that, and trying to get through school proved difficult for the hopeful young man with a bright smile. He missed 10-15 games that first year because he was on academic probation.

Charlie Burnett and Darrius Nance on the freshman boys' basketball team

While watching basketball, Charlie’s parents took notice of Darrius and his wonderful manners, sportsmanship, and overall kindness. And they noticed how often he was benched for his grades.

“He probably had better manners than my own kids,” laughed Mimi Foley, Charlie’s Mom. “He has always been the nicest young man. We just loved getting to know him. I saw how he treated people with such kindness. You can’t help but love him.”

So how did Darrius come to call Mimi Foley and Larry Burnett ‘Mom’ and ‘Dad’, and Charlie (’13), Caroline (‘07) and John (‘09) brothers and sisters?

“There was the occasional ride home from a game,” recalls Mimi. “I would ask if he wanted a bite to eat on the way home. I knew that he probably hadn’t eaten all day.”

Eventually Darrius agreed to occasionally spending the night if he was working on a project and needed a computer and the internet.

“It was the first time I ever slept in a real bed,” he says. “When she (Mimi) woke me up, I asked if I could just stay in that bed for a little while longer because it was so comfortable.”

We SUPPORT each other

Mimi and Larry knew they had to do something to help students like Darrius who weren’t getting the academic support they needed at home. They made an investment in some in-school tutoring services at Pius XI.

Mimi and Larry are do-ers. They see inequity, and they do something about it.

Five years later, this program, known as Academic Support, is still run by Ben Fischer ‘03. And it is open to students who need one-on-one support, compassion and advocacy. The program has changed many futures over the past five years.

Mary Riegert '66, Dick Fischer '61 and Ben Fischer '03. Dick and Ben work together to individually serve the academic needs of countless students

Darrius, Mimi, and Larry give a lot of credit to Ben Fischer for the gentle way he encouraged and motivated Darrius to stay on top of his work.

“He always found a way to help me learn by putting things into terms that I could relate to.” Darrius says. “Ben wouldn’t let me skip our meetings either. If I didn’t show up, he would send me a text or come find me.”

Book jacket design by Darrius Nance, part of a graphic design project while at Pius XI

School became a place he couldn’t wait to go to everyday. He jokes that there were “a good amount of people at Pius keeping an eye on me, and I didn’t even know it then.”

We invest in POTENTIAL

At some point, none of them quite remember when, or how, Darrius began to stay at the Burnett’s regularly during the school week and go back to stay with his Mom on the weekends.

He went from being on academic probation to getting As and Bs. And, he was able to go on a Kairos retreat, something he would not have been able to afford before, and it changed his life.


“I’ve always had a positive mentality, and knew that even with my struggles, I would be ok. Going on Kairos was so life-changing.”

“I learned that everyone has a mask on because they don’t want people to see what they are ashamed of. I took off that mask, and people finally learned what I had been going through and they loved me anyway.”

Darrius says he learned a lot during his time at Pius. He gained a family. He learned accountability. He learned about living in your truth. He learned of the capacity of others to love more…through his chance connection with Charlie Burnett and his family that freshman year.

We are a COMMUNITY of caring

Today, Darrius works part time at Larry’s law office, helping others however they need it, and bringing a smile to everyone he encounters. He mentors youth on Wednesday nights, and his studying fire science at MATC.

Larry gently adds that being a fireman is the perfect job for Darrius. “It is so him. Unselfish. Committed to teamwork. Caring for others.”

It IS so Darrius, but is also the Foley-Burnett family.

This is Darrius’ story, but it is also Pius’ story.

A school filled with people who are guided by FAITH, and driven by COMPASSION. And the people – parents, teachers, coaches and staff— at Pius XI act on that compassion so that students leave better, more prepared and more loved than when they entered.

What would have happened had Darrius not been at Pius XI? He says he would still have been “OK” because he has a joyful spirit, but his path and his future would have been very different.

Varsity basketball 2013

He and Mimi and Larry share their personal journey because they believe we need a Pius XI in Milwaukee and want to encourage people to support the vital programs and staff that change lives and futures…and families.

We are many parts, But we are one body

Pius XI Catholic High School | 135 N 76th Street | Milwaukee, WI 53213

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