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Cristo Rey Boston Offers New Approach to College Readiness

Posted: May 3, 2011     Nancy J Conrad

Cristo Rey Boston and College Readiness
First in a Series

The Savin Hill Village section of Dorchester is home to the Cristo Rey Boston High School which uses a highly successful model ensuring college readiness. 

Students follow a rigorous academic program yet are encouraged to participate in extra curricular activities - from the arts to athletics.  Students also contribute to the cost of their education (more than $10,000 per year) by participating in the school's work-study program.

We spoke with Jeff Thielman, Cristo Rey Boston High School President, and Sean Harris, Development Office.

Cristo Rey Boston High School Cristo Rey Boston High School

The 2010 - 2011 academic year is the first in Dorchester. Formerly known as North Cambridge Catholic High School, the school joined the Cristo Rey Network  in 2004 and moved from Cambridge to the Savin Hill Avenue site in 2010.  The school is excited about its new location.

  • 70% of the student population comes from Dorchester, Mattapan and Roxbury.
  • The Savin Hill T stop is right across the street.
  • The former St. Williams site will accommodate a targeted growth to 400 students
  • The Savin Hill Village neighborhood is wonderful
The academic, social, emotional and spiritual growth in every student over the course of the four years is remarkable.
  • Remediation - Most students enter 1 to 2 grades below level, especially in math.  The goal is having all students to grade level by the end of the freshman year. 

  • Teamwork in athletics - Working five days per month means missing practice and games on occasion is the norm.  Every team has to have two of everything.  Cooperation and teamwork is the norm not focus on self.

  • Self development and maturation - Attention paid individually to each student by the teachers and support staff guarantees that each student will be known and guided according to their unique talents.

  • The Corporate Work Study Program - Students are prepared to work in the corporate setting and are carefully monitored by both work-study staff and site supervisors.  Corporate jobs are shared.  Student workers know their performance today impacts the next day's worker.  They come to realize, regardless of the technical level of their work, that their assignments are important to the Corporation and they learn what the inside of the corporate world is like starting at the age of 14.

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Jeff Thielman, President,

Cristo Rey Boston High School
  • Spirit and school enthusiasm - Students learn there are always reasons for celebrating at Cristo Rey - like Spirit Week, or doing well on a test or winning a game or giving a performance.  Everybody in the school supports everyone else.
By the end of the senior year students are well-versed in the discipline required to handle the many tasks that fill their lives, and it is reflected in their accomplishments.

2010
100% of the graduating seniors were accepted to four-year colleges
2011 100% of the graduating seniors were accepted to four-year colleges

Cristo Rey is not just a school.  It is a networked support system for moving 14-year-olds along a path that is molding emerging, capable adults who are:
  • Able to handle the rigors of a four-year college (if they so choose)
  • On a path to supporting themselves economically
  • Interested in being active and engaged citizens in society
Cristo Rey Boston High School

The Cristo Rey model includes four groups to ensure the success of the students:  school, students, parents and Corporate Partners.

The fourth group, "jobs," is the outlier.  Skepticism on how to fit a work-study program into a student's day and a corporate sponsor's bottom line is what led to a surplus of naysayers in the early days of the Cristo Rey model development (1996). 

Since then the Cristo Rey network has expanded to 24 schools and is demonstrating the effectiveness of the program in educating well-rounded students towards a goal of college preparation.

Cristo Rey's emphasis on college-bound is highlighted by an important event that will be taking place at their annual fundraiser on May 5, 2011.  Reminiscent of the athletic signings that take place at many high schools across the country, Cristo Rey will be holding a signing as well but this one, an academic signing.  

The top five CRBHS students will be unveiling the school of their choice from the ones that have made them offers - up to now kept secret.  The students and their Corporate Partners, school staff and parents will all be present to watch each student select a hat from the table indicating the school of their choice.

Fundraising is an important part of the fabric of the school. Only students from economically disadvantaged families are allowed to attend the school.  So along with all of the other complexities that face the students, they go home to their families where money is often in short supply.  The advertised tuition for the school is $2700.  While some families contribute the full price, only about 15% are able to do so.

Cristo Rey's annual fundraiser is May 5, 2011.  Everyone is invited to attend.  Even if you cannot attend, give Sean Harris a call or Pres. Jeff Thielman 617-825-2580.  They love talking about their life's passion - educating young people.  You will be drawn in as much as this author was.

For more information visit their website:  http://www.cristoreyboston.org/.

Cristo Rey Boston High School
Cristo Rey, Boston, formerly St. Williams, on Savin Hill Ave
Cristo Rey Boston High School
Jeff Thielman, President, Cristo Rey Boston


Cristo Rey Boston High School
Library as viewed from the rear
Cristo Rey Boston High School
The school's stage is at the back of the library

Cristo Rey Boston High School
Computer access in library

Cristo Rey Boston High School
Computer lab


Cristo Rey Boston High School
Class being taught using digital whiteboard
Cristo Rey Boston High School
Almost lunchtime

Cristo Rey Boston High School
Gleeming first floor hallway
Cristo Rey Boston High School
Internatonal flavor in lower level

Cristo Rey Boston High School Cristo Rey Boston High School
Art classroom and student art on display

Cristo Rey Boston High School
Cristo Rey Boston High School

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