In his 2015 encyclical “Laudato Si’,” Pope Francis said, “Work is a necessity, part of the meaning of life on this earth, a path to growth, human development and personal fulfillment.” He goes on to say, “Helping the poor financially must always be a provisional solution in the face of pressing needs. The broader objective should always be to allow them a dignified life through work.”
Firmly rooted in the Jesuit tradition of “Cura Personalis,” which roughly translates to caring for the whole person, the Cristo Rey Network advances this ideal as well as the Catholic tradition of educational excellence and individual transformation in its 32 schools in 21 states across the U.S. Their mission is to serve under-resourced students and families by helping to educate and form their children.
Cristo Rey was developed in 1995, when then-Chicago Archbishop Cardinal Joseph Bernadin encouraged the Jesuits to find a way to provide quality, Catholic secondary education to the impoverished Hispanic immigrant population of Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood. When Jesuit Father John Foley was given the task of starting Cristo Rey Jesuit High School, he had one major obstacle: There was no way these families could afford a traditional, private, secondary education.
The solution they found, and the model that they continue to implement, is that the students themselves work one day a week, earning not only a wage to underwrite their tuition, but also valuable skills and experience for their future.
The Minneapolis location opened its doors in 2007 with 100 students. Over the last 10 years, it has partnered with families and corporations to allow 345 students to work one day a week at major corporations, graduate from high school and go to college.
“We are the pressure on the rocks transforming our students into jewels,” said Jeb Myers, president of the Minneapolis school. “We are helping students build their talents, being the best that they can be. ”
He continued, “We bring people together here.”
Senior Jocelyn Montiel agreed, saying, “The teachers and students help each other. Teachers are always giving you a hand.”
Montiel is a first-generation high school graduate and has worked for U.S. Bank one day each week during her four years at Cristo Rey Jesuit.
Trewlany O’Connor, a senior, has worked at four different places, including Land O’Lakes, during her four years. She said it has taught her how to manage her time, and that although she dreams of being a nurse, she “loved getting a sneak peek into the corporate world to see how it runs on a day-to-day basis.”
Myers concluded, “I love my job; I feel so blessed. My big goal is that we want to grow the program without losing the ability to give the individualized care to our students.”