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.

Student Voices: Nicolas Mejia

screen-shot-2017-03-01-at-10-53-01-amNicolas Mejia is a sophomore at Cristo Rey Atlanta Jesuit High School. Through CWSP, he works five days a month at Soccer in the Streets. He was featured on their website, reflecting on his time at and efforts with the organization and what they are accomplishing for youth in Atlanta.

I am Nicolas Mejia, a student from Cristo Rey Atlanta Jesuit High School, and an intern for Soccer in the Streets. Soccer in the Streets is a local Atlanta organization that uses soccer to help teens, within the Atlanta community, who are refugees due to social issues in their home countries. Our motto is “Play. Grow. Work. Succeed.” which really represents what we want our youth to enforce when they go out and live their day-to-day life. As for the experience of our youth, we wish to give a positive environment where everyone can be comfortable on the field. The same goes for the office, as we strive to always achieve a friendly environment. In the office, you are always part of the group. We have grown trust with one another that allows the whole team to work in a peaceful environment.

In my experience working at Soccer in the Streets, I have really enjoyed the environment here and I feel fit to perform the tasks I am given, which involve my strongest skills. When I come in every day, I have a daily plan set up so that I am occupied while my other co-workers arrive. Once my supervisor arrives, she is ready to tell me what we will do the rest of the day and we get right on it. I am almost always working on the computer, which actually fits me well as I am very tech savvy. I help set up the calendar on a program we use called Upshot and create documents. As I help in the office, I also feel like I help on the tasks we have outside of the office. I set up boxes that will be sent out to project sites, or I may even set up banners for an event, or at times, I create  sign-up sheets for a pick-up event.

On some special occasions we go out of the office to other places for a project. One of my favorite projects has been the creation of the soccer nets at our most recent project called, Station Soccer; the first soccer station built within a station. Initially, we had to carry the posts of the goals to the field. Each one was sizable and heavy so we had to make two trips from the shoppe to the field. Once we transported the goals to the field, we had to install the netting with metal chains. I had the pleasure of finishing installing one of the nets and take a few shots in order to see their durability. Another trip that we made was around the street near the office. I managed to see the new building for my school, enter Ebenezer Baptist Church which was one of Martin Luther King’s local churches, and I even had the chance to see a statue of Gandhi which lies directly in front of a pathway of feet that were imprinted by peaceful leaders.

On many occasions we also host special meetings or projects in the office. A while back, around the time I began working here, the office had just recently relocated and needed some organizing; I was responsible of organizing and labeling one of our major closets. It took a while to find a way to organize it, but eventually I managed to set it up to where all you had to do was locate the item you were looking for on a list and it would lead you directly to a section. Another task I was responsible for was copying notes from the board and then formatting them the same way they were on the board. I had to color code certain notes and make comments on the side as they were on the board. In the end I learned something new about Google Docs’ formatting, which I eventually used for a project in my World History class.

Out of work, I have also tried to contribute to Soccer in the Streets. I came to the inauguration for Station Soccer where I was able to meet with Tony, who is currently the Atlanta United Academy Director, and see whether he had space for a player on the team. The team was already full, but luckily they have tryouts in August and he invited me to come and show my potential. Another event I went to was the Cristo Rey Atlanta Jesuit High School collaboration with Soccer in the Streets at Station Soccer where they filmed us playing and testing out the new field. Also, a huge event that I collaborated on, both in the office and on the field, was the first pick-up match at Station Soccer. I helped create the sign-up sheet and I got to play the entire day, so it was a win-win situation.

Honestly, being chosen to work at Soccer in the Streets was the most unexpected event in my life. I knew that when my Corporate Work Study Manager talked to me about this job she had heard my opinion of it and that I would love to see what it was about. However, I had no idea she had actually chosen me to have the privilege of working here. Even my companions at the school were amazed by how lucky I was for getting the chance to come and work here. I am thankful that I was chosen because coming to work here has opened me up to a whole new variety of careers; careers that my previous job did not, and that add onto my list for my future.

This post originally appeared on the Soccer in the Streets website.

Student Voices: Twoneisha Burns

dpcr-women-in-medTwoneisha Burns is a freshman at DePaul Cristo Rey High School in Cincinnati. In late January she joined 31 other female students for a “Women in Medicine” program hosted by The Christ Hospital’s Women in Medicine group of female physicians. The hands-on field trip served to educate the students about the medical field and encourage them to consider health care careers.

The DePaul Cristo Rey students and staff went to The Christ Hospital to experience different jobs and techniques in the medical field. The first session was a family medicine session, the second was orthopedic surgery, the third was obstetrics and gynecology, the fourth was surgical oncology, the fifth and final one was anesthesiology. It was a special trip and was even more special because female doctors inspired us by telling their life stories and sharing the mistakes they have made. They told us how they have learned from their mistakes to get where they are right now in life, even though it was not easy. They all said to work really hard for what we want in life, never give up, learn from our mistakes, breathe, and don’t get too caught up in the future that we let the present pass us by because right now is an important part of our journey of growing up. They also said never let a man make you feel that you need him to make it, or you can’t do it since you’re a woman, because we women can do it all as well as men can. They said our secret weapon is that women have better communication skills than men.

On this field trip I met some of the amazing people God has created,dpcr-women-in-med-2 and I learned new things I didn’t know. The Christ Hospital program opened my eyes to see that I can no longer live in the past or future. I have to live in the present and move forward with positivity. Dr. Elizabeth Ruchhoft told us not to be afraid of going to college or of the amount of years we would have to be in college for the degrees we want in the medical field. I took that in because I have always wanted to be a prosecutor so I can help everyone.  I also want to help adults and children in another way so have considered becoming an obstetrician/gynecologist. I told myself years ago that I will get degrees in law and medicine, then I became scared that I’m not smart enough and that I would not be able to endure. Dr. Ruchhoft helped me realize that I have to pursue my dream to always help others. She said, “You can and will do it; don’t make the same mistakes we all did by not believing in yourself. Just say you can achieve and have a lot of faith!’’ That really touched my heart and I know we have to believe and we will achieve.

Message from Cristo Rey Leadership: Lauralyn Lee

lauralyn-leeLauralyn Lee is Don Bosco Cristo Rey High School’s (Washington, DC) new board chair, beginning her tenure in fall 2016. She has served as a member of the Board of Directors since 2012. She is a Higher Education Consultant and Senior Advisor to the President at Georgetown University.

What drew you to the work of Don Bosco Cristo Rey?

The Catholic mission – I am a strong believer in values-based education – and the unique Corporate Work Study Program component. The CWSP not only benefits the school financially, but it gives the students exposure to a world outside both their academic and neighborhood communities. Learning how to shake hands, look people in the eye, look comfortable even if you are not. These are skills you learn by experience and exposure. Our students enroll and persist in high school and in college at much greater rates than students from similar backgrounds, proving that an education at Don Bosco works.

As the new Board Chair, what do you hope for in the next decade for Don Bosco Cristo Rey?

Don Bosco Cristo Rey is at an important stage of its development. During its “startup” first decade, Don Bosco developed a very strong foundation. The school has an exceptionally strong and generous group of supporters, very constructive support from the Archdiocese of Washington and the national Cristo Rey Network, a family-like community of faculty, staff, alums, students and families, and powerful leadership. I hope to assist Fr. Mike Conway in building the infrastructure to support future growth and longterm sustainability.

How do you respond to change and transition?

Change is an opportunity; people are more willing to explore doing things in partially or wholly new ways. I have great confidence in the future of Don Bosco Cristo Rey and look forward to working with Fr. Mike as we transition the school into its second decade.

Alumni Voices: Baltazar Pizano

baltazarBaltazar Pizano graduated from Cristo Rey St. Martin College Prep (Waukegan) in 2011. He matriculated to Loyola University Chicago. This profile originally appeared on Cristo Rey St. Martin’s website.

At 24, Baltazar Pizano is poised in the first half of 2017 to launch a promising start-up, join his father in his entrepreneurial efforts, and pass the CPA exam — with an ultimate goal of a long-term career in private equity.

Less than two years after graduating with honors from LUC, Baltazar is currently an investment analyst at Dunmore Capital Partners who plans to work alongside his father and help him manage his irrigation business, all while pursuing his own start-up ventures.

Graduating with a degree in accounting and finance, Baltazar was a member of LUC’s entrepreneurship club and Investment Banking and Financial Markets Association. He is currently a member of the Association of Latino Professionals in Finance and Accounting and the Illinois CPA Society.

He attributes his work ethic to his father and mother, Baltazar Sr. and Maria, who put a high priority on education even though neither had attended college. They left Guanajuato, Mexico more than 20 years ago, for Waukegan, becoming U.S. citizens to provide better opportunities for their four children. The senior Pizano said that upon his arrival he was caught off guard. “Down the street on the corner there were kids selling drugs every day and no one ever did anything about it. That’s when I decided I needed to put my kids in a private school. They needed structure and discipline.”

Today three of his four children have graduated from Cristo Rey St. Martin, with Jose, the youngest, currently a student. The eldest, Mariana, graduated from LUC in 2014 and is currently a legal assistant at an immigration law firm in Waukegan. The Pizano’s other son, Eloy is currently at the Milwaukee School of Engineering.

Baltazar says the most important lessons he learned at Cristo Rey St. Martin are humility, helping others and the importance of pursuing higher education. While at Cristo Rey St. Martin, he participated in the Senior Student Council, Cross-Cultural Club, the track team and helped plan freshman retreats.

“CRSM taught me to dream big and that no matter my personal circumstances, I could succeed in life,” he says. The principal, Dr. Odiotti “was very support[ive] and encouraging about helping me apply to colleges, and he motivated me to study finance and push myself in college.”

The Corporate Work Study Program motivated him to pursue a business degree. His business aspirations were also inspired by his time as a student worker at EMCO Chemical Distributors, Crate & Barrel, and Catholic Charities. “Two of the three companies had very humble beginnings and now are multimillion dollar companies.”

His goals for the next 10 years are clear and focused. He wants to become “an established and proven serial entrepreneur, start a consulting business, become a successful investor and grow small businesses and to be happily married and financially sound.”

Alumni Voices: Rashad Mohammed

Processed with VSCO with hb2 presetRashad Mohammed graduate from Cristo Rey New York High School in 2009. He then matriculated to College of the Holy Cross ’13, and is currently a member of Columbia Law School’s Class of 2019. He was featured in Cristo Rey New York’s 2016 Annual Report.

Describe your experience at Cristo Rey. My experience at Cristo Rey was completely eye-opening. Working in a corporate office helped me develop vital work experience and allowed me to learn how to interact in a professional environment. Academically, it helped me gain the skills I needed to enter and graduate from college. And on a personal level, it is where I formed lifelong friendships.

How have the skills you gained at Cristo Rey prepared you in your career? They gave me a strong sense of determination. It was at Cristo Rey that I was introduced to the idea of working and striving towards something better.

What do you value the most about Cristo Rey? I value the sense of pride the school has. Cristo Rey exposes its students to aspects of the world that students may not have any experience with. I really appreciate how the school works to instill a sense of pride in its students, regardless of the student’s background.

What made you interested in law? Law is in many ways the backbone of the world. Anything that you do is governed by laws and principles. As I got older and got to learn about landmark cases or massive business deals taking place, I really began to develop an interest in how the law governs our society. I also believe that with a law degree I’ll be able to make an impact in various societal sectors.

Where do you see yourself in ten years? Ten years from now I hope to be doing work that truly motivates me and making substantial gains in my career. Cristo Rey will definitely be a part of my future. I really believe in the Cristo Rey model and hope to help advance it someday.