Mid-way through week 8, I am finally wrapping what has been my favorite part of my summer working at CRCHS. I’ve spent the last few weeks scheduling phone calls and interviews with development directors in Cristo Rey schools across the country to discuss experiences with their first graduation ceremony. My plan was to ask as many questions as I could, with special attention to common pitfalls, successes and any words from wisdom from the schools who boast 10+ years of amazing graduation ceremonies. It was a really cool experience connecting with schools in very diverse cities, from L.A. to Brooklyn to Indianapolis, and even to small-town Waukegan, Illinois. Every development director had a different approach to their school’s graduation and the strategies they’ve established to ensure its success. These conversations were extremely fruitful as they allow me to report a vast array of options for what Cristo Rey can implement in the upcoming year and recommendations for how they can adjust these ideas to fit well with their vision for CRCHS.
Despite the differences between the schools, however, the realization I met towards the end of the interviewing process was the remarkable support system that the Network provides for Cristo Rey schools. There are over 30 schools who are in various stages of operation; some have just celebrated their 10 year anniversaries, others were just granted permission to open two weeks ago, and others are preparing for one of the biggest milestones of them all, their first graduation (us!). There was enthusiasm and excitement present in each and every conversation I had with schools in the Network. They were eager to share their experiences, brainstorm ideas, and provide some insight on upcoming challenges or joys that were sure to arise in the upcoming year. Overall, it was an altogether enjoyable experience that shed a new light on each school’s role within a larger Network-wide vision.
There has been such a tremendous(ly awesome) focus on the Columbus community and its members throughout my time with Cristo Rey and the Columbus Foundation. I have truly learned so much about its people and organizations and I have realized a new sense of pride for the city I call Home. However, acting as the liaison between Cristo Rey schools across the country has introduced such a feeling of solidarity and support that I was not anticipating. These schools are rooting for me (only a temporary fellow here at CRC!), the work I’m doing, but especially the kids that Cristo Rey Columbus is serving. It is important to them that Columbus is successful. Their overwhelming support & good wishes further prove their dedication to the mission and I truly wish I could share their words of encouragement with every faculty member, teacher, administrator and student here at CRCHS. As a result from my direct engagement with schools everywhere, I have no doubt that the Network will grow until the U.S. is bursting at the seams with these incredible educational institutions that empower low-income youth to be successful in their college and career ambitions.
Learn more about the Cristo Rey Network founded in 1996 by John P. Foley, S.J. here: http://www.cristoreynetwork.org/