Cristo Rey Network
Educating the Underserved
Q) What is the mission of the Cristo Rey Network and what benefits are evident from the organization?
A) The Cristo Rey Network empowers thousands of students from underserved lower-income communities to develop their minds and hearts to become lifelong contributors to society. By providing students an extraordinary college-preparatory education and a unique four-year integrated corporate work-study experience, we seek to help transform urban America.
Nationally, the Cristo Rey Network schools are succeeding. For the classes of 2008 and 2009, more than 84 percent have enrolled in college (source: National Student Clearinghouse). This is nearly twice the rate of their peers from the same socioeconomic background.
Q) Give a brief history of this organization. How long has it existed and what inspired its origins?
A) In 1995, Rev. John Foley, SJ, was invited by his Jesuit Provincial to leave Peru and return to his hometown of Chicago to help create a quality Catholic college-preparatory high school in Chicago’s Pilsen community. This Hispanic neighborhood of working-class families was a community with very limited educational options.
Cristo Rey Jesuit High School opened in 1996 with Father Foley as founder and first president. Father Foley and his team created an audacious plan—to implement an innovative business model whereby students work five days each month in an entry-level job at a professional company. The pay for their work is then directed to underwrite tuition costs. This unconventional approach to education was their best shot at responding to the growing need.
By 2001, the success of the original Cristo Rey school and its innovative business model had become known to educators and others throughout the country. In response, the Cristo Rey Network of schools was founded in 2001, with Father Foley as its first president. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, along with venture philanthropists B.J. and Bebe Cassin, provided seed funding to promote the replication of the Network model.
Q) How many college-preparatory schools exist throughout the U.S., and where are they located? What sets Cristo Rey schools apart from others? Are there plans to create more Cristo Rey schools?
A) Today 24 Cristo Rey Network schools are located in 16 states and the District of Columbia. Our schools have a rigorous academic program, coupled with a Corporate Work Study Program, enabling Cristo Rey students to develop the knowledge and skills to prepare them for college and the 21st-century workplace. Furthermore, our schools demonstrate a model of sustainability that will allow the Cristo Rey Network to serve youth with limited educational options for years to come.
Hence, the Cristo Rey Network plans to continue working with local communities to open one to three new high schools per year, depending on local demand and the national economy. We envision having 50 thriving schools serving 25,000 low-income students.
Q) What special qualities or unique characteristics are found in students who attend Cristo Rey schools?
A) Despite their adversities of growing up in neighborhoods stricken by crime, poverty, and violence, Cristo Rey students have a desire to go to college and succeed. They strive for an outcome rarely discussed in their home environments. Cristo Rey students are most commonly described as having a “glimmer in their eye.” They are persistent, have tenacity, and a strong desire to succeed in life.
Q) What is the success rate of Cristo Rey schools in comparison to other inner-city schools? Explain.
A) Through no fault of their own, Cristo Rey students arrive in ninth grade, on average, two grade levels behind due to low expectations and poor teacher quality. Cristo Rey Network schools have a commitment to preparing these students for college; therefore, our schools are teaching six years of instruction in only four years.
Last year, every Cristo Rey graduate was accepted into college. As mentioned earlier, Cristo Rey graduates are enrolling and persisting in college at nearly twice the rate of their peers from the same socioeconomic background.
Q) What is the purpose of the Corporate Work Study Program? What type of corporation does the network look for when creating a partnership, and who are some of the network’s corporate partners?
A) While the initial purpose of the Corporate Work Study Program was primarily to generate revenue, today the purpose is multifold. Not only do the jobs finance 60 percent of the schools’ operating costs, but students gain real-world job experience, grow in self-confidence, and realize the relevance of their education.
Cristo Rey schools partner with hospitals, banks, law firms, and corporations that ideally employ 100+ employees. The key to successful partnership is that the corporation understands that the job is a real job. In addition, the supervisor’s role is critical to the success of a partnership.
Q) How is Cristo Rey funded? How would an interested donor contact the Cristo Rey Network to contribute to the organization’s efforts?
A) Cristo Rey schools are predominantly funded though the earnings of the students in the Corporate Work Study Program. The Network Center Office is funded through a combination of member dues and donations from corporate and national foundations, as well as individuals. To contribute to the organization’s efforts, please call the Advancement Office at 312-784-7208 or donate online at www.cristoreynetwork.org.