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

Message from Cristo Rey Leadership: Preston Kendall

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Last week when one of our students tweeted, “My bowl turned out so much better than I hoped!” several of us at CRSM knew exactly what she was talking about.

Our Campus Ministry office was originally the second floor landing for a back stairway. It’s an oddly shaped affair slightly bigger than most other workplaces on campus and is increasingly called into service for all kinds of gatherings because we have simply run out of room. There is something fitting about Campus Ministry being in a space designed for heavy traffic. Campus Ministry is consistently one of the busiest places at CRSM precisely because it represents the intersection of faith and action. With that in mind, it was simultaneously appropriate and incongruent when, two weeks ago, I found myself seated at a folding table in the Campus Ministry office with eight other students painting ceramic bowls.

If, unlike me, you have painted ceramics before then you know our bowls had a dull white, rough finish and the paint colors were all muted pastels. Despite this lack of vibrancy, students threw themselves into the task of painting whatever they liked on the bowls. Some painted hearts, some flowers, or stars, or various other geometric designs. Some decided to simply use one solid coat of color on the outside and another on the inside. Others applied strategically sparing splashes of different colors here and there. One student worked on an elaborate, mosaic-like pattern that resembled stained glass.

All the bowls were so different but all were conceived and produced with great care. As we focused on our works of art, the students shared small talk of the week ahead and the weekend past, occasionally teasing one another, or joking self-deprecatingly about their creations. Of course, I grilled them a bit on their college aspirations, too. But amid the banter, there were long intervals of silence and concentration. At times it seemed like a kind of communal prayer: a small group sitting in silence, facing one another, surrounded by a mix of religious pictures on the wall and dozens of photos of CRSM students engaged in community service activities.

Our project was part of the Empty Bowls movement, raising awareness of domestic and international hunger through art. One of our science teachers came up with the idea and voluntarily organized the whole event. With materials donated by a local ceramics studio and personal expressions of beauty donated by our students, the entire project culminated at a potluck soup dinner last Friday in our “caf-a-chap-a-gym-a-torium.”

Climbing the front stairs up to the dinner, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Smells of soup wafted over to the check-in table where guests purchased their dinner tickets. Entering the dining area, guests were immediately confronted by a table full of shiny, smooth, and incredibly colorful bowls! These were the same bowls painted two weeks earlier but they had been fired in a kiln that transformed them into absolutely beautiful pieces of art waiting to be filled with soup.

As part of the ticket price, participants chose a bowl to keep and use for their dinner. Other bowls were reserved for a raffle. The money raised went to Feed My Starving Children, a local non-profit where CRSM students volunteer regularly. All those bowls the students worked so hard to create were donated for the event.

So there we were at CRSM on an evening in Lent enjoying one another’s company with a variety of home-made meatless soups and hand-made precious bowls – students, teachers, friends and family sharing a meal together – all with the purpose of caring for others less fortunate than us. As tough as some of our families have it, our students know others who are much worse off and they are doing something about it – using their hands, hearts, and minds to make the lives of others better.

For a moment during dinner, I felt something I hope everyone has a chance to feel sometime in their lives. Seeing so many wonderful young people doing something as mundane as eating together and yet also realizing that this meal was the result of a whole series of selfless acts, the room sparkled with a vibrancy far beyond just the beautiful bowls. In that moment, as people laughed and ate and shared, I sensed God’s presence – God actively at work in our world through these young people, young people shifting the focus of their lives from me to we, young people being persons for others.

Because of economic conditions in Waukegan and North Chicago, society assumes this place has nothing to offer or, even worse, generalizes that crime and homelessness and unemployment reflect the character of the people living here. Our neighborhood is misjudged as rough, dull, and empty but like the bowls, something beautiful is happening here. It’s just hard to see.

Little things like a Lenten dinner in solidarity with the hungry may seem insignificant but social justice events like this one are happening all the time at CRSM. As they continue, it is the equivalent of firing the whole community in a kiln of faith and action. One day, just like the student tweeting about her bowl, we will all be surprised by a future brighter than we ever hoped. That future is coming; as surely as Easter follows Lent, it’s coming. I see it in those bowls. I see it in our students. Their best… our best is yet to come!

This piece originally appeared on Cristo Rey St. Martin College Prep website.

Student Voices: Tania Vega

36Tania Vega, a student at Detroit Cristo Rey, delivered a speech at the 2017 Annual Meeting, speaking confidently in front of all 161 participants. She shared her life story and experience and detailed how Detroit Cristo Rey has shaped her trajectory. She will attend Wayne State University in the fall.

My name is Tania Vega and I am a senior at Detroit Cristo Rey High School. I am the youngest of four by quite a lot. My siblings are more than a decade older than me. My family jokes around saying I was the surprise baby. Being the youngest is not as easy as everyone believes . I grew up alone for the most part. When we came to Detroit I was only two, my oldest sister began working right away and my other sister and brother, ages 14 and 16, began high school. By the time I was five my oldest sister was already married with my first nephew on the way. My other siblings shortly followed. Because I spent most of my childhood alone I grew up to be a very shy person.

The transition from middle school to high school was hard as it is for everyone. I knew no one and was too shy to approach anyone which was really scary. Cristo Rey was not what I expected high school to be. I am so glad it is nothing like I expected. I never expected to have so much exposure to new experiences. I have gotten to interact with people I never thought I would, especially coming from a low-income family. The greatest lesson I have learned is that tearing down the barriers we create around us is what makes us grow as people. I can honestly say I proud of the person I have become.

The Corporate Work Study Program has taught me many lessons and enlightened my path. I have had three jobs in my four years of high school. I have worked at Edward C levy, Ford Mo. Co, and Michigan Head and Spine. I must say I do have a favorite. My favorite job was at Ford Motor Company. I gained so much knowledge and confidence in the skills I barely knew existed. I translated customer dealership experiences from Spanish to English, which strengthened my bilingual skills. Ford made me realize what truly drives me. I want to help others, I want to be the change that I think is greatly needed and I plan on using business to achieve it.

On June 4, 2017 I will be the first one in my family to graduate high school. I will also be the first to attend and graduate from college. I applied to about 16 colleges and universities, and got accepted to all of them. All my motivation comes from my family, but my support comes from the school and all the caring faculty that push me to be a better version of myself everyday. Cristo Rey is not just a college prep school, it is a second family to all of us – a family filled with support, love, faith, and compassion.

Alumni Voices: Caylin Moore


Caylin Moore is a Verbum Dei High School alumnus. Now a senior at Texas Christian University, Moore is about to embark on an incredible journey as a Rhodes Scholar.

How did you find and ultimately choose Cristo Rey?

I found out about Verbum Dei from my youth football coach. He told me that his son was currently attending Verbum Dei, and that it was like a little college. It gave me an image of something that would create opportunities for me in the future, so I happily inquired about the school.

How was your Cristo Rey high school experience?

Great. I personally loved it and grew from it tremendously.

What elements of your Cristo Rey education stand out?

The Corporate Work Study Program stood out to me tremendously. My friends’ resumes could not compare to my own coming out of high school. The Corporate Work Study Program also encouraged me to continually build upon my resume and seek out many other opportunities.

How did Cristo Rey prepare you for college?

The academics were very rigorous and the expectations were high. As a result, I now have higher grades in college (3.934 GPA) than I did in high school (Cumulative 3.6 GPA).

What are you up to now?

I am currently a senior student-athlete at Texas Christian University. I am majoring in Economics with a minor in Mathematics and Sociology with a cumulative GPA of 3.934. I am a Division-one football player at TCU as well.

What are your plans for the future?

I am a 2017 Rhodes Scholar, therefore I plan to study at Oxford University for my MSC in Sociology and my MPP Masters of Public Policy directly after I graduate in May of 2017.