Leadership Voices: A Message from Fr. Joseph Parkes, SJ


This message was originally published in a Cristo Rey New York Spring newsletter on May 8, 2018.

Dear Friends,
As we enter into my final spring here as President of Cristo Rey, I am reminded of how far we have come since our opening fourteen years ago. I am reminded of the building itself, how it has been transformed over the years from two small, brick 19th-century buildings to a beautiful, cohesive 21st-century facility. I am reminded of our very first students, the 99 individuals who made up the Class of 2008, and all of the hard work they did to set  a precedent for the classes to come. Most importantly, I am reminded of all the extraordinary things this class has gone on to do because of the opportunities they found here:

  • Amaidani Boncenor: Fordham University ’12, University of Wisconsin Law School ’17; Director of Admissions at Cristo Rey Milwaukee
  • Abiezer (Abe) Mendez: Fordham University ’12; Assistant Vice President at Barclays in London
  • Ana Rosado: Swarthmore College ’12; PhD student, nineteenth century African-American history, Northwestern University

This class set the bar high, and I am proud to say that each subsequent class has worked to raise that bar even higher. Flash forward to today, and we are among the highest performing schools in the Cristo Rey Network. Just like the Class of ’08, our current students are succeeding at work, in the classroom, and beyond.

Ten classes later, here’s a look at some of the places the Class of 2018 will be off to in the fall:

  • Fernando Sanchez, Columbia University, and Cynthia Reyes, Williams College; both with full tuition, room and board scholarships as QuestBridge Match Scholars
  • Denzel Capellon, Hamilton, and Roberto Gabriel Brito, Dartmouth, were named QuestBridge Scholars
  • Chris Gonzalez, Franklin & Marshall, with a full tuition scholarship as a Posse Scholar
  • Twelve seniors are committed to Fordham University so far, continuing the strong relationship we have had with the university since our founding

Cristo Rey is filled with excitement and anticipation as the year comes to a close with a lot of change on the horizon. While this season means I will be stepping down from my position as President of CRNYHS, it also means the welcoming of Dan Dougherty, the next president of Cristo Rey, who will transition fully into role on July 1, 2018.

The joyous spirit of the season is evident everywhere at Cristo Rey, with so much to be proud of and so much to look forward to. Thank you all for joining us on this journey and supporting us through it all. It has been an honor to be President of this school for the last fourteen years, and I am so looking forward to staying connected to you all in the future.

With gratitude and prayers,

Fr. Joseph P. Parkes, SJ


Leadership Voices: A Lenten Message


This blog post was originally published by Holy Family Cristo Rey Catholic High School on February 14, 2018.

Dear Friends,

Today, as the western Christian world celebrates Ash Wednesday and the beginning of the season of Lent, we are confronted with one of simplest signs left in our common life: that dark smudge of ash on our forehead.

The very idea of a sign, a thing that is used to signify something else and make it present to us, is a difficult concept.  Signs explain and establish relationship.  We know this when we use words like a subtraction sign or an addition sign.  They are words the point to a new value based on the relationship of what they mediate.
Many of us will observe this Lent by the sign of subtraction – we will choose not to drink or look at social media or eat chocolate or eat meat.  Some of us will observe this Lent by the sign of addition – we will be more diligent in prayer or we will read spiritually edifying books or we will be intentional in giving to the needy.
However, at their root, these are signs of conversion and anticipated transformation.  These signs are to indicate the relationship between who you are now and who you might become. They are signs of a change of heart and a change of mind. We are to fast, to pray, and to do righteous work; visible reminders that call us to examine ourselves and to make amends for the sinful and broken areas of our life, to move beyond self-righteousness and self-sufficiency, and to reconcile those areas of our life where we have not accepted God’s grace.
These are not the only signs of transformation in our lives and that of our communities.  Education, too, is a sign of transformation; it points to a new future different from the past.  That is our goal at Holy Family Cristo Rey Catholic High School: to be a sign of new and flourishing relationships for our students and our community.
With my prayers for a peaceful and productive Lenten season,
Fr. Jon Chalmers

Teacher Voices: Patrick Schmidt

808e0a54-4265-4e78-b004-9904af9251c3This piece originally appeared in Cristo Rey Detroit’s Fall Update on October 22, 2017.  

In the summer of 2012, I finished my first year as a teacher. I was a volunteer at a Cristo Rey school – Arrupe Jesuit High School in Denver, Colorado. Throughout that year I learned about  lesson planning, collaborating with other teachers and supporting students in unique ways to fit their needs. However, the most important lesson I learned was how to be a member of the Cristo Rey community and the importance of everyone in that community to the accomplishments of our students. I learned that it takes all the parents, teachers, work partners, administrators, benefactors, etc. to uphold the Cristo Rey mission and to create schools that provide countless opportunities for our students.

Now, in my 6th year as a Mathematics teacher at Detroit Cristo Rey (a place I dearly call home) I continue to deepen my understanding of that lesson every day and try to spread it to new teachers and school members as they become part of our family as others did to me. From Fr. Menard at Arrupe to Fr. Jose at Detroit Cristo Rey, the message of family and community holds strong throughout the network of schools and the impact can be seen nationwide. As I continue on my educational journey, I will take time to reflect on the community and family that worked together to give me opportunities for a better future because I know none of us get where we are on our own. I want to personally thank you all for being a part of that community for our students in whatever way you contribute to their current and future lives.

As I continue my education, it is important for me to reflect on everyone who has contributed in large or small ways to my successes in life. It is important for everyone to recognize that they did not get where they are in life without the support of family and loved ones.

10 years of changing lives in Indianapolis

providence3-300x200By (Originally published by Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.)

In 2005, the Archdiocese of Indianapolis approached religious congregations who had served in the Archdiocese to come to the table to discuss the possibility of sponsoring a Cristo Rey school. One by one, the congregations declined, noting that they did not have either the funds or personnel to make it happen. The Leadership Team of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods felt likewise. Yet they also sensed a strong call to do as Saint Mother Theodore had done some 165 years before: to risk for the sake of Providence.

The Cristo Rey model had been born in Chicago by the Jesuits. It offers students who could not otherwise afford a Catholic school education the opportunity for a quality education in a faith-based environment. Students study four days per week. On the fifth day they go to work in a variety of professional jobs. The model was unlike that of other Catholic schools.

The model was so much in keeping with the Sisters of Providence tagline “Breaking boundaries, creating hope” that the SPs could not say no. And so it began. Endless hours and days were spent pounding the pavement looking for donors, for work study opportunities for the students, and for a building. In July 2007, the first students arrived at Providence Cristo Rey High School (PCRHS).

Ten years have passed since that glorious opening day! As the school marks the end of its 10th year of operation, it seemed only fitting that we share some of the many “success stories” of its graduates. Read more.

Message from Cristo Rey Leadership: Elizabeth Goettl

Elizabeth GoettlAs the new President and CEO of the Cristo Rey Network, I am delighted to once again be working towards achieving the Cristo Rey mission. Having held two leadership roles within the Cristo Rey Network from 2006-2014, I feel privileged to rejoin the Cristo Rey family in pursuit of our audacious goal of career readiness and college completion for every student in the Network. In collaborating with the national office staff and after engaging in the Cristo Rey Board of Directors meetings, I am reminded of the remarkable mission-mindedness and the goodness of the people engaged in the work in which we all share. I return to the Cristo Rey family deeply grateful for the opportunity to rejoin the movement, with faith and confidence in our bold promise to our students.

As we collectively move closer towards the dream of college completion for every student who enters our doors, I note advances in our work on college initiatives, continued forward progress on school growth, a focused and capable national office staff, and school leaders collaborating with one another.

 Thank you for partnering with us in this transformative movement.

Yours in Cristo Rey,



President and CEO

Student Voices: Jaide Talmadge

Cleveland JaideJaide Talmadge, a member of Saint Martin de Porres High School’s Class of 2017, is heading to Harvard University this fall with a full ride scholarship.

How did you find and ultimately choose Saint Martin de Porres High School?

I found Saint Martin through a group of my peers. The main factor that ultimately made my decision was the Corporate Work Study Program.

What elements of a Cristo Rey education stand out?

One element of Saint Martin’s education that stood out, other than the CWSP, are the teachers. The most important relationships that I developed during high school were the ones formed with the teachers and staff members of Saint Martin. They provided a multitude of opportunities and connections that assisted me greatly during my time here. One staff member even provided me with the contact information of a friend that attended Harvard. There are so many teachers at Saint Martin that adapted to the needs of their students. Personally, I have had plenty of teachers that stayed late, even just to talk. Our teachers truly have invested themselves in the success of their students

Where was your CWSP job, and how did the experience affect your development and education?

My freshman year I worked at Cleveland Clinic. My sophomore and junior year I worked at McDonald Hopkins, a law firm downtown. My senior year I worked at Frantz Ward, another law firm. My experience at all my CWSP jobs gave me a sense of confidence, especially when speaking to adults. My experience at Frantz Ward has been particularly rewarding. My coworkers made it their job to introduce me to as many attorneys and people of the firm as possible. When I expressed a slight interest in law, attorneys started trying to assign me more work.

In what ways has your unique education at Saint Martin prepared you for the next step in your journey?

The college preparatory education provided by Saint Martin has been so helpful throughout my years there. The most valuable yet stressful classes at Saint Martin have been the College Counseling classes. When the classes were introduced my freshman year, I was not as excited for them as I was my senior year. First of all, they took away from my study hall time, which was very important to me as a busy student-athlete. Second of all, the demanding journey of college seemed so far, but starting early was super important, even if I didn’t want to admit it. Discussing important topics concerning college was especially helpful when it came to applications, college visits, and selecting a college when the time came. And there’s no doubt in my mind that when it comes time to start school in the fall, the College Counselors will be there to guide me when I need it.

How did you respond to your acceptance letter to Harvard? What happened that day?

I received the news late at night, and I was extremely shocked. I immediately got out of bed and told the news to my mother, who was half-asleep. When I went to school the next day, they announced my acceptance over the loudspeaker because I was the first person from Saint Martin to receive an acceptance letter from Harvard. The entire Saint Martin community was overjoyed, with some of my peers even more excited than I was.

What are your hopes and goals for the next four years at Harvard?

My hope for the next four years at Harvard is that I am able to thrive in that community despite the fact that it is so very different than the one that I have been used to for the past four years. I definitely hope to mature and find what I am meant to do. I will use this opportunity to better myself and prepare for whatever the world has to offer after college.

Do you see yourself as an inspiration to others?

I definitely see myself as an inspiration to students from Saint Martin that also desire to pursue admission to Ivy League caliber colleges and universities. I never knew anyone that attended Harvard before I decided to apply, which added to my reluctance to apply in the first place. I did not think it was possible for someone like me. But now that I have been accepted and I chose to attend, I get messages from peers through Instagram, Snapchat, or text asking for advice. Now that they have someone close to them that has completed the process. Hopefully they see me as a success story that could be them one day.

What advice would you give to prospective Cristo Rey students?

Take advantage of the many adults in the community, whether it is teachers, staff, or CWSP coworkers. They all have so much insight to offer, and many wouldn’t hesitate to support you to help you succeed.

Alumni Voices: Mayra Tenorio

Mayra TenorioMayra Tenorio is a member of Cristo Rey St. Martin Class of 2011. She is a Swarthmore alumna ’15 (BA Sociology and Anthropology). This fall she is headed to Cambrige University as part of the Gates Cambridge Scholarship, a program for individuals who demonstrate outstanding intellectual ability, leadership potential, and a commitment to improving the world. Mayra will head to Cambridge this fall to continue her Anthropology studies.

How was your Cristo Rey experience? 

I loved high school. I really feel that that is where I found my voice. It was the first time that I was in a place where I had adults believing in me, encouraging me to ask questions, to participate and to lead. For students of color, we aren’t really given that opportunity in the way that other students are. The majority of us are first generation. We are daughters and sons of immigrants; we don’t have adults telling us we our voices have value. So I was lucky to come into my own in that space through all my mentors and teachers in that space.

What I always loved about Cristo Rey St. Martin and what I love now when I go back as an alumna is that I feel that you are allowed to be who you are. Cristo Rey St. Martin embodies the importance of community. Each individual has talents and gifts to bring and they are celebrated for that. I had the opportunity to grow in my faith, participating in volunteering and service, but I was able to take on leadership roles.

How did Cristo Rey prepare you for college? 

Cristo Rey St. Martin is college-prep, the courses and skills they teach are meant to prepare you for college. To be a first-generation student, a student of color in these institutions that are predominantly white can be difficult and intimidating. With the CWSP that confidence is built in students. We are given the opportunity to be in majority white environments. You get that social capital, the different thing that you need to survive spaces where maybe you are the only ones there. And not just survive but succeed. We claim our space since we are 14 or 15, and when you are 18 or 19 it’s easier to see challenges as not bringing me down but as opportunities to prove myself and to know that I can overcome and not fear these spaces.

Talk more about the Gates Cambridge Scholarship. 

There are a lot of UK scholarships, internationally and in the US that allow you to study at these prestigious UK institutions. But the Gates Cambridge Scholarship is unique in that the scholars are very talented academically but also see a responsibility in having resources and access to education and using their academic privileges to help the world. I was really attracted to that message, not only because I want to pursue academia, but the goal of my research would be to get rid of gender inequality. So I’m joining this movement to end gender inequality. My opportunity to add my grain of salt is to uplift and recognize the voices of women of color—the movements and resistance that women of color are behind—get my masters, study for a year and bring this platform for indigenous women to academia. This is a huge privilege and I’m obviously benefitting but with that comes huge responsibility to make my work worthwhile.

What inspires you as you pursue your career?

In respect to women and women’s lives, our Latino community. I can’t afford not to believe that there is a better future for us because it’s me that I’m talking about. I’m a woman; I’m Latina; I’m an immigrant. It is hope that keeps me going. There are bridges popping up. There are different ways to lead. I hope to be someone who is very willing to join and hold hands with other movements, with others already bringing change. I stay hopeful and celebrate those who are already making change and help in whatever way I can.

Student Voices: Arturo Vallejo

Arturo 1Arturo was born and raised in Columbus, OH. The middle of five children, he will be the second in his family to go to college. Before coming to Cristo Rey Columbus High School, he attended Columbus Preparatory and Fitness Academy, a small charter school. He is a member of Cristo Rey Columbus’ inaugural class.

How did you find and ultimately choose your Cristo Rey school?

A representative from Cristo Rey Columbus stopped by my charter school and I was very intrigued by their work study program. I told my mom that I really wanted to come here, and she didn’t hesitate to sign me up.

How has your Cristo Rey high school experience been?

My Cristo Rey High School experience has been awesome. Cristo Rey has an abundance of opportunities which helped me succeed, some of which I wouldn’t have had at my public high school like the work study program.

What are some of your favorite classes?

I would have to say that my favorite classes throughout my four years of high school were Calculus and Chemistry. I enjoyed Calculus because I have a passion for math, but I loved chemistry because of the labs. We would get to work with chemicals and perform multiple experiments throughout the year.

What elements of your Cristo Rey education stand out?

One of the main elements that stand out from my Cristo Rey education is the work study program of course. I’ve gained so much valuable work experience in the business world. Another thing that really stands out is the dedication of the teachers. Every teacher I had wanted me to succeed and pushed me to do better. They were always there ready to help even after school hours.

What have your CWSP jobs been?

I worked at Panacea products, a manufacturing company, for my first three years. I mainly worked with invoices, orders, and filing, but was also able to work and learn from the IT department. This year I worked at an IT company called R. Dorsey + Co. I worked alongside the database administrator and gained a lot of knowledge about SQL (language for database manipulation).

How is Cristo Rey preparing you for college?

Cristo Rey has prepared me for college academically by oering AP and honors classes. I’ve also learned to become a great communicator and “people person” by having gotten work experience in a business setting since I was 14 years old. My top three choices from the school’s I got into were Brown, Northwestern, and Ohio State. I ended up committing to Brown University!

Are you interested in any particular major?

I am currently interested in Brown’s Applied Math-Economics concentration (major). I’m also looking forward to taking some computer science courses.

What are your plans for the future?

I can see myself working in consulting or banking right after college. There’s also a possibility that I might end up in the tech industry if I end up studying computer science. My plan for the future is to start my own company or to become part of a startup. I envision myself doing more than just working for a company within a market. I see myself creating a new product or providing a new service that will enhance that market.

Where does your motivation/inner drive come from?

My inner drive comes from being a first generation U.S. citizen. My parents are immigrants, and growing up I saw them work endlessly. I learned that life for them was dierent back home, and that I had far better opportunities and resources here in the United States. I’ve worked hard all throughout high school and strive to do great at everything I did, because that’s how you get ahead in America. If my parents were able to build a life by starting with virtually nothing, then I had no reason to fail.

Religious Sponsor Reflections: Sr. Dawn Achs, SSND

ssndThe School Sisters of Notre Dame were founded in 1833 by Blessed Theresa of Jesus Gerhardinger, and 184 years later her daughters continue her charism “to bring all to that oneness for which Jesus Christ was sent.”  “Like Mother Theresa, we educate with the conviction that the world can be changed through the transformation of persons…we educate in schools and in other areas of urgent need”  (You Are Sent Constitution of the School Sisters of Notre Dame).

When the need for an endorsing congregation for Cristo Rey Dallas was brought to the leadership team of the School Sisters of Notre Dame, Central Pacific Province it seemed that our mission and the mission of the school were a perfect match. Definitely the school meets an unmet need in the Pleasant Grove area of Dallas, and is a means of transforming the lives of the students, their families, the community, and ultimately our world. As I experience the impact the school is having on the lives of the students, their families, and the broader Dallas area it is evident that lives are being transformed.

As SSNDs it is inspiring to observe how the faculty and students have embraced our call “to proclaim the good news…directing our entire lives toward that oneness for which Jesus Christ was sent.”  Each day before dismissal, in their prayer, the students are reminded that they are called and sent to make Jesus known.  What a wonderful opportunity for School Sisters of Notre Dame to extend our educational experience and our charism to a new generation of enthusiastic young people committed to becoming the best persons they can become.

Teacher Appreciation

Photo1“And gladly wolde he lerne and gladly teche”

This quote, by Geoffrey Chaucer was the inscription in the book, An Empty Spoon by Sunny Decker. Ms. Decker described her first two years of teaching at Gratz High School, an all-African American school in North Philly. I was in the 9th grade when I first read Ms. Decker’s book. I’ve since reread it multiple times; it was one of several books that inspired me to become a teacher. While written nearly fifty years ago, Ms. Decker’s experiences illustrate both the frustrations of a new teacher as well as her positive impact on her students.

We don’t talk enough about the positive impact teachers have on their students. Rather, the current political climate tends to blame teachers for many of education’s faults. However, research suggests that, among school-related factors, teachers matter most. When it comes to student achievement in reading and math, a teacher is estimated to have two to three times the impact of any other school factor, including services, facilities, and even leadership. That’s pretty impressive. Additional research concludes that effective teaching has the potential to help level the educational playing field. In 1966, James S. Coleman (a noted educational reformist) wrote, “the quality of teachers shows a stronger relationship [than school facilities and curricula] to pupil achievement. Furthermore, it is progressively greater at higher grades, indicating a cumulative impact of the qualities of teachers in a school on the pupil’s achievements. Again, teacher quality seems more important to minority achievement than to that of the majority.” Coleman’s statements hold true fifty years later!

Maya Angelou wrote, “This is the value of the teacher, who looks at a face and says there’s something behind that and I want to reach that person, I want to influence that person, I want to encourage that person, I want to enrich, I want to call out that person who is behind that face, behind that color, behind that language, behind that tradition, behind that culture. I believe you can do it. I know what was done for me.”

We are grateful to those 723 individuals who chose to teach in a Cristo Rey School. We’re grateful to whomever or whatever inspired them to become a teacher. Maybe like me, it was a book, perhaps it was a special teacher or maybe it was the opportunity to have a positive impact on a group of students.   

Teacher Appreciation Weeks begins today, Monday, May 8th and National Teacher Appreciation Day is tomorrow, Tuesday, May 9th. Our teachers’ many, many contributions to our students and our schools are both recognized and appreciated. Without each one, our Network would not have the transformative, life-changing impact it does. What a blessing they are to our students, their families and our schools. Truly, we are glad that you learned and thankful that you chose to teach.

George V. Fornero, Chief Academic Officer