John P. Foley, S.J. shares the history of the Cristo Rey Network on EWTN.
1995: John P. Foley, S.J. was invited to return to his hometown of Chicago by his Jesuit Provincial. Father Foley had spent the past 34 years working primarily in education with the poor of Tacna, Peru. His Provincial wanted to create a quality, Catholic, college preparatory high school in the Pilsen community of Chicago, a Hispanic neighborhood of working-class families with very limited options for giving their children the kind of education that families in other neighborhoods too often take for granted. Other Jesuits had literally walked the streets of the Pilsen neighborhood, asking the residents what they and their families needed most. A college-prep high school was their response.
Father Foley and his team created an audacious plan – to implement an innovative business model whereby students work five days each month in an entry-level job at a professional company, with the fee for their work being directed to underwrite tuition costs.
1996: No school like this had even been attempted. Father Foley and his team saw a need and believed this unconventional approach to education was their best shot at responding to the need. They were right. Cristo Rey Jesuit High School opened with Father Foley as founder and the first president.
2001: The Corporate Work Study Program worked - even better than expected. The success of the original Cristo Rey school and its innovative business model had become known to educators and others throughout the country. Groups in Portland, Denver and Los Angeles approached Father Foley and other Cristo Rey Jesuit High School leaders about how they might replicate the school and its mission of serving students from economically challenged families in their own communities.
In response, the Cristo Rey Network of schools was founded in 2001 with Father Foley as its first president.
2003: The Network was formally organized as a 501(c)3 organization and schools were operating in Los Angeles, Portland and Denver.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, along with venture philanthropists B.J. and Bebe Cassin, provided seed funding to promote the replication of the Cristo Rey schools.
2012: The Walton Family Foundation announced its investment of $1.6 million in the Cristo Rey Network to open another 25 new high schools, primarily in states that have either vouchers or tax credits. At full enrollment, these 25 new schools will educate over 10,000 additional inner-city students every school-year.
"Cristo Rey is magical. What you see is hope and optimism." - Melinda Gates, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
"Anyone who cares about improving education should read this book...and prepared to be inspired. The Cristo Rey story is proof that a small group of creative individuals who are committed to a mission and willing to take a risk can indeed change the world."
- Tom Vander Ark, president of the X Prize Foundation
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