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Schools That Work

96% of these grads are accepted to two- or four-year colleges

The motto of the Cristo Rey Network of high schools is Schools That Work. The dictum pays tribute to the schools’ success at graduating at-risk urban youth and its innovative work-study program, which places students in entry-level, corporate jobs to help them finance their private-school tuition. With graduation rates near 100% and 96% of students accepted to two- or four-year colleges, there is no question the schools work.

In 1996, Jesuit priest Father John Foley founded Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Chicago’s Pilsen/Little Village neighborhood. The school set out to provide the best college preparatory education available to at-risk youth with limited educational options. Father Foley soon realized, however, that donations alone couldn’t fund the school and a creative financing solution was necessary. Partnering with area business leaders, Father Foley developed the work-study program, which requires students work five days a month at a job to help underwrite the cost of their education while benefiting from exposure to professional careers.

The school opened its doors to 79 students, and the McGowan Fund was supportive of Cristo Rey from those earliest days, awarding its very first grant to the school. Today, the school has grown to 535 students (with a long waiting list) and more than 80 percent of Cristo Rey graduates are currently attending or have already completed college.

From that first school grew the Cristo Rey Network, a coalition of 24 Jesuit college preparatory high schools across the country—all committed to serving underprivileged youth. Over the years, the McGowan Fund has been a consistent supporter of Cristo Rey Schools, and over the past three years the Fund provided $125,000 to three schools in Chicago, Kansas City, and Washington, DC. The Cristo Rey belief in opportunity through education, coupled with its innovative educational model truly embodies the spirit of William G. McGowan, while its proven success reflects the aspiration of the McGowan Fund.