The Cristo Rey movement began in 1996 when Cristo Rey Jesuit High School opened its doors to 70 students in southwest Chicago. The school’s founders prayed that their bold idea of a rigorous college preparatory school supported in substantial part with student-earned income would allow them to provide a high quality education and a promising to-and-through college trajectory to children from economically disadvantaged families in one Catholic parish. They readily concede that they did not at the start foresee the powerful formational impact and opportunity that the combination of academics and professional work experience would entail for Cristo Rey students. Nor did they imagine that they were creating a model that could and should be replicated across the country.
As the Cristo Rey movement begins its third decade, the 32 schools that today comprise the Cristo Rey Network collectively welcome 10,933 students to classrooms and corporate workplaces in 21 states and the District of Columbia. As the Network’s presence and impact has grown, so has our understanding of the ingeniousness of the Cristo Rey model in building financial sustainability on the one hand and student character, competence, confidence, and aspiration on the other. The 7,000 Cristo Rey graduates who have either earned their undergraduate degrees or are currently enrolled in colleges and universities across the country are the best evidence of the power of the model—and the best ambassadors for our Network.
Our students and graduates remind us daily of the high human stakes and profound human consequences of this worthy work. They motivate all of us to continue the innovation and the audacious thinking that spawned the movement. They explain—indeed compel—our continuous focus on assessment, improvement, and innovation in all domains of our work, an approach that this Annual Report succinctly conveys and our newly revised Network website now shares in inviting detail.
No one suggested that “transforming urban America one student at a time” would be easy or the province of a few talented individuals. But the founders could not have envisioned the strength of the talent that the Cristo Rey movement would galvanize across the country. An extraordinary team of school leaders, teachers, and administrators; supporting Religious Sponsors and Endorsers; Corporate and University Partners; national staff members; and school and Network boards work locally and nationally to ensure the excellence of each of our schools and all of our schools. That work is fueled by the many supporters who demonstrate belief in the Network’s power and progress through their generous investment in our work. We are deeply grateful to all of you for your commitment to our mission.
Sincerely in Cristo Rey,
W. Nicholas Howley, Board Chair and Jane E. Genster, President and CEO