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Cristo Rey school selects site

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

By Eileen Connelly, OSU

CATHEDRAL DEANERY — Local educators, community and religious leaders and other supporters gathered for a breakfast meeting and presentation on Nov. 11 at the site of DePaul Cristo Rey, a new Catholic high school set to open in the archdiocese in 2011.

The Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati, who will operate the school, have agreed to buy Concordia Lutheran Church, school and its community buildings located along Central Parkway in Clifton. Franciscan Sister Jeanne Bessette, who has been named president of the new high school, said the closing on the property is scheduled for early December.

During the breakfast meeting Jesuit Father John Foley, president of the Cristo Rey Network, spoke of the history and mission of the schools. The first Cristo Rey school was founded in Chicago in 1996. There are currently 24 Cristo Rey high schools across the country, he said, with some 5,900 students enrolled. Seven additional schools “are in the pipeline.”

Father Foley noted that Cristo Rey schools are not just college-prep Catholic high schools, but “temporary employment agencies,” geared toward minority and low-income students who spend four days a week in class and one day working at entry-level clerical jobs off campus to cover most of their tuition.

“The kids’ self-esteem goes through the roof,” Father Foley said, noting that 99 percent of Cristo Rey graduates are accepted into college. “They see that there is a future for them. We are giving them a ‘why’ to go to school. It gives them tremendous hope.

“We get calls from businesses thanking us for sending the students,” he added. “They love the kids, the young spirit, the enthusiasm, the smiles.

“The Cristo Rey Network is very excited about working with the Sisters of Charity,” Father Foley said. “With their spirit of energy and dedication to young people, they will bring much life to our network.”

Sister Jeanne said the Concordia facilities are in “great shape” and will undergo a “modest renovation” before the school opens, including adding more classrooms, a library, science and computer labs.

The school will open with about 100 freshman and eventually expand to 500 students. A majority of the funding to operate the school for its first two years has already been secured, she added, and efforts to raise additional funds, including a capital campaign, are ongoing. Twenty-six local companies, including Good Samaritan Hospital, the Cincinnati Reds, Megen Construction and the Freestore Foodbank, have signed letters of intent to hire Cristo Rey students, and other 25 have expressed various levels of interest, Sister Jeanne noted.

She spoke of the excitement surrounding the school saying, “Cristo Rey excites peoples’ imaginations. It captivates them. People realize we need new solutions for old problems. The cycle of poverty has existed since this country began and our old institutions haven’t been able to fix the problems. We’ll be able to change the fabric of society in Cincinnati.”

Eileen Connelly, OSU, can be reached at [email protected].

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