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Cristo Rey Orlando High School
Brooke Rayford


NEW YORK, NY – Yesterday, Cristo Rey Network, a national faith-based independent school network headquartered in Chicago, was named a finalist for the coveted Yass Prize and won a $500,000 STOP Award for Sustainable, Transformational, Outstanding, and Permissionless education at the third annual Yass Prize Celebration and Gala in Midtown Manhattan.

The Yass Prize, known as the Pulitzer of Education Innovation, seeks, rewards, and celebrates innovative organizations trying to break the cycle of ineffective education that is failing students across the country. As one of nine finalists selected from a pool of 33 semifinalists, Cristo Rey Network received its award to accelerate its mission and to transform the landscape of opportunity for the least advantaged youth using its proven model blending rigorous academics with work experience.

"We know giving education innovators the opportunity to work outside the system that is suffocating so many of them is the most effective way to transform the lives of America’s students,” said Janine Yass, who co-founded the Yass Prize with her husband Jeff in 2021. 

When the Covid crisis revealed and magnified the vast inequities that surround a majority of our students, they pivoted in their education investments to speed up the pace of improving student lives. 

"The kind of disruption that the awardees are causing in American education is remarkable,” said Jeanne Allen of the Center for Education Reform whose organization manages the Yass Prize effort.  “The Cristo Rey Network is among the very best of American endeavors in education.”

This year’s grand prize winner with the $1 million Yass Prize was Valiant Cross Academy from Montgomery, Alabama. Valiant Cross, Cristo Rey Network, and the rest of the finalists were selected for most exemplifying each of the Yass Prize’s four core STOP principles: Sustainable, Transformational, Outstanding, and Permissionless education. 

"Winning this award gives the Cristo Rey Network the ability to more rapidly scale to 50 schools enrolling nearly 20,000 students by 2030 and seizing upon evolving trends in the workplace," said Kelby Woodard, President and CEO, of Cristo Rey Network. "We are very grateful to Janine and Jeff Yass for selecting us as a finalist."

The remaining 23 Yass Prize semifinalists each received a $200,000 STOP Award. Additionally, Florida-based Indi-Ed won the $100,000 Parents Choice Award, a new initiative determined through the 65,000 votes cast by parents and others closest to the students of each semifinalist.

"This year’s awardees exemplify the best of American endeavors in education,” said Jeanne Allen, who heads up the Yass Prize and related initiatives. “We are proud to welcome the Cristo Rey Network into the Yass Prize network, which provides growth, coaching, mentorship, and training opportunities to support our members’ continued growth.”

Click to learn more about our story and to watch the Cristo Rey Network dedicated awardee video.  


The Yass Prize, powered by the Center for Education Reform in partnership with Forbes, is a rapidly growing effort to find, reward, celebrate, and expand best-in-class education organizations from every sector. In conjunction with the $1 million Yass Prize, the STOP Awards initiative will distribute nearly $20 million in 2023 to organizations in its network. Learn more at

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