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Cristo Rey: The School That Works

This story was published by the Xavier E-News in 2014.

The New York Province of the Society of Jesus sponsors seven high schools in New York and New Jersey and endorses Cristo Rey New York High School. In our ongoing exploration of other apostolic works of the Jesuits, we focus today on Cristo Rey New York High School. Founded in 2003 and welcoming her first students in 2004, Cristo Rey New York High School is a collaborative project of lay men and women and representatives of three religious congregations: the Sisters of the Holy Child Jesus, the De La Salle Christian Brothers and the Jesuits. Cristo Rey New York High School is funded through the generosity of individual and institutional benefactors.

Cristo Rey New York High School (CRNY) is a Catholic, co-ed, college-prep school, part of the national Cristo Rey Network. CRNY serves students of all faiths who have demonstrated the potential and motivation to achieve success and who do not have the educational background or financial means to attend another private, college-prep school. Guided by the spirit of care for the individual, cura personalis, CRNY challenges all her students with a rigorous academic program and a demanding work-internship program, the Corporate Work Study Program (CWSP). The ultimate goal is that all CRNY students will graduate from college and become professionals for others, transforming the world for the good of their families and society.

Cristo Rey New York High School was founded to help bring about social justice. The central challenge the school addresses is providing access to a quality college-preparatory education for students from low-income families. In September 2004, the school opened with a freshman class of 99 students in the former St. Cecelia’s Convent on 106th St. off Lexington Avenue in Spanish Harlem. The building has a fascinating history and over the years housed two religious congregations and many ministries. Cristo Rey New York celebrated her first graduation on June 12, 2008. Now in her tenth year, CRNY enrolls 388 students in grades 9–12. In May 2010, CRNY earned accreditation by the New York State Association of Independent Schools (NYSAIS). All CRNY students gain admittance to college. Currently graduates are studying at colleges and universities across the country, including Fordham, Georgetown, USC, Villanova, SUNY Binghamton, Marist, Scranton, Amherst, Williams and St. Joseph's (Philadelphia).  

CRNY serves students from all five boroughs of New York City and lower Westchester County. Most live in the South Bronx, Washington Heights and Harlem. The average income of CRNY families is $30,000. The student population of 388 is 79% Hispanic, 18% African-American and 3% other. Currently, 58% of the population is female and 42% is male. Seventy-six percent of the student body is Catholic. The majority of students are immigrants or children of immigrants, and they represent 25 countries and territories. Most students will be the first in their families to graduate from college. Tuition at CRNY is $2000 with generous financial aid available. Income from the CWSP and generous benefactors provide the majority of funding for the school.

One of the distinctive qualities of a Cristo Rey education is the Corporate Work Study Program (CWSP). All students are part of a work team and spend one day a week at their worksite gaining valuable insight and experience into the worlds of finance, law and health care among others. In addition, the salaries of each work team support each student’s education. Over 120 paying companies and several non-profits host over 220 unique work teams with the largest client employing 20 students across 11 departments. Clients are located across New York metropolitan area. 88% of clients return each year and 98% of students meet or exceed their supervisors’ expectations at work. The schedule is structured so students do not miss classes on their workdays.

Catherine Lucero, a senior at CRNYHS, was named a semifinalist in the 2014 New York Times College Scholarship competition. She is one of 87 students invited to proceed to the next round of consideration out of several hundred initial applicants. 

Fr. Joseph P. Parkes, S.J., former provincial of the New York province Jesuits is the president of CRNY and Mr. William Ford is the principal. Fr. Parkes is a graduate of St. Peter’s Prep and Mr. Ford of Regis.