Millions have been educated in parochial schools through the 1960s and these graduates have grown up to make vital contributions to American productivity and culture. Since then thousands of Catholic schools have closed, particularity in inner-cities. The remaining traditional Catholic schools often charge a high tuition that low-income families cannot afford; meanwhile, students most in need of a good education today are being failed by the public education system. An African American male in America today is more likely to land in prison than in college; a young Latina enrolled as a freshman in college has about a one in 10 chance of earning a degree.
The Cristo Rey Network has taken up the challenge to exclusively serve young people who come from families with economic need and do not have access to a quality education. With 24 Catholic, college preparatory high schools across the country, Cristo Rey has been cited by Time Magazine as “an island of success in the Catholic ocean.” Each of the 6,900 students enrolled this year will graduate high school with the knowledge and 21st century skills to be successful in college and the workplace. Our schools implement a rigorous, college preparatory curriculum and every student participates in the Corporate Work Study Program. This program employs all students in a professional job one day a week to earn up to 70% of their tuition as well as gain hands-on work experience.
Cristo Rey graduates master skills, complete high school, and pursue higher education at rates far exceeding peer averages. In the face of enormous need for a quality education option, we are eager to continue our growth. Given the enactment of school choice legislation in a number of states, there is an historic opportunity to open new financially sustainable Cristo Rey high schools supported not only by revenue from the Corporate Work Study Program, but also by education tax credits and private school vouchers. The Cristo Rey Network envisions opening another 25 new high schools; at full enrollment, these 25 new schools will educate over 10,000 additional inner-city students every school-year.
Cristo Rey Network schools demonstrate a model of sustainability that will allow the Cristo Rey Network to continue giving hope, and a future, to students in urban communities who thought college for themselves was a fairy tale. The Network has changed the path of the lives of countless students and sparked a revival in inner-city, Catholic education in the United States.
Father John Foley served the Jesuit missions in Peru for 34 years, working primarily in education. Father Foley returned to Chicago in 1995 to collaborate in establishing Cristo Rey Jesuit High School, where he currently serves as president.