Cristo Rey forges ahead with new school plans

It’s what Father John Swope refers to as “college prep with a kick.” That is Cristo Rey Jesuit High School, Baltimore, where approximately 120 ninth graders literally will earn their education starting in the fall of 2007. The school will add a new class each year until it reaches a maximum capacity of 500.

To reach that vision, administrators are forging ahead with fundraising, development plans, and construction options to gather the many pieces needed to finish this educational puzzle in the Cristo Rey Network. Father Swope leads the efforts as school president, overseeing two fundraising committees who are busily soliciting large private donations and corporations in the community.

“The board of trustees is very active in gathering support from individuals who want to collaborate with the founding of Cristo Rey,” said Father Swope.

Also immersed in developing the donor base is Christie Coe, director of development, who said there is no public money involved. “Most (solicitations) are done one on one; it’s really the most effective,” she said. An annual giving program will happen each fall.

Working toward a $10 million goal for a six-year plan for capital and operational support, the committees have received pledges of $1.5 million from the Jesuits – the Society of Jesus, Maryland province and $1 million from the 1995 founded Cristo Rey Network, the recipient of two major donations totaling $15.9 million dollars in grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Nationwide, seven new Cristo Rey schools will open this year.

Along with a rigorous academic schedule, the Cristo Rey environment provides a corporate work study program for students from low-income families. A co-ed student population will attend school four days and work one day a week at sponsoring corporations: hospitals, colleges, law firms, corporations, and non-profits.

“These are kids who have never been through the front door of a corporation,” said Mrs. Coe. “When you’re poor, your world is very small.”
To date, 31 corporations have agreed to hire students, providing 60-70% of the cost of the annual tuition, real work experience, and exposure to various professions. Students will work in job-sharing teams to fill one entry level position. A company will pay $25,000 to hire a team; some will employ more than one team.

One big piece of the puzzle is to make needed improvements on the current building at the school’s selected Guilford Avenue site, shuttered since 2001 and purchased from Baltimore City. “The board is very interested that the students have a quality facility,” said board member Father Swope.

He mailed letters to parents of the already 90 accepted students to announce a temporary school site at the former Holy Rosary School, Baltimore, to begin the first school year. Those accepted hail half from public schools and half from Catholic primary schools.

“We are searching for good, motivated kids who need focus and who need attention,” he said. “They want to go to college.” The school would like to attract a ratio of 50/50 girls and boys of all faiths and ethnicities.

Those wishing to make a gift to the new Cristo Rey Jesuit High School should contact Christie Coe, 410-727-3256 or ccoe@cristoreybalt.org.

Catholic Review

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.