I have been sitting on this exciting news for a while and it has been extremely difficult to contain given my enthusiasm for the new Cristo Rey school. I wanted to make sure the details were finalized and the location was a “done deal” before we made an announcement…especially given my personal involvement with the school as a founding corporate partner. But when I saw Style Weekly go public with the news of the new school, I figured it was safe to get the word out.
My introduction to the Cristo Rey initiative in Richmond came from an acquaintance by the name of Julian Hillery at Davenport & Co. Julian had a great experience with the school and he was volunteering his time to help bring a new branch of the school to the City of Richmond. He reached out for an appointment to give me the pitch and was inquiring to see if we would be interested in sponsoring some of the new students at the school. After hearing the details and that there was a possibility the school could be located in Manchester, I could hardly contain my enthusiasm. We decided to help financially sponsor the student program shortly thereafter.
Here is how Julian first described the program to me:
“I’m hoping that you might be interested in a new high school we’re trying to bring to Richmond. The school is part of an innovative network throughout the country serving low-income students. Their innovation comes through a corporate work study partnership where every student works 1 day/week at local businesses.
The Cristo Rey Network selected Richmond for a feasibility study with the goal of opening a Cristo Rey High School. Cristo Rey began 20 years ago in South Side, Chicago. Today, they have a network of 32 college preparatory high schools for underrepresented urban youth. They serve only inner-city youth. All graduate from high school, 100% are accepted into college, 90% matriculate to college and, once in college, graduate at nearly 3 times the rate of inner-city youth. You can see why we are so excited about the possibility of starting one in Richmond.
Central to their curriculum is a corporate work-study program which provides the majority of education funding. We are moving forward with some early and amazing Richmond business community support. I would love the opportunity to come and speak with you about Cristo Rey.
Thank you for considering the program. Below are three quick videos for some additional information:
- 4 minute snapshot from the 60 minutes segment on Cristo Rey
- 2 minute illustration of the work study program
- 4 minute video produced with a Chicago law firm on their Cristo Rey experience.”
But Where Should the School Be Located?
So if you took the time to watch the videos, you can see why I was so excited about the potential for this newly proposed school. Despite the opportunity, there was apparently a lot of back and forth about where the school would be located. I am told the school was first intended to be located at the City of Richmond’s old Oak Grove School (2200 Ingram Ave) as pictured below. The school is sitting nearly vacant. The idea was to locate the school in an urban area that would be in close proximity to the Sacred Heart Church in Manchester given it is the driving force behind bringing the school to Richmond. The Southside location would also have the added benefit of being able to serve the urban communities’ mix of both underserved Latino and African American students who call the neighborhood home. However, despite the school being nearly empty, the School Board apparently decided that they didn’t want to sell or lease the property (or at least not at the terms Cristo Rey desired). The old Oak Grove School continues to sit as a vacant and negative detractor for the Southside neighborhood to this day.
So the Cristo Rey supporters moved on and set their sites on the Nine Mile corridor in the East End. The school was envisioned to be in close proximity to the Bon Secours hospital and the redevelopment efforts that are underway there. I suspect that for a variety of different reasons including the distance from the Sacred Heart Center, competing priorities with the new Reynolds Culinary Institute as reported by John Murden of Church Hill People’s News, and many more, the East End location was ultimately passed up.
The current plan is to locate the Cristo Rey school next to Sacred Heart Church on the 1400 block of Perry Street. The Diocese of Richmond, working in close coordination with its Sacred Heart Church, has been fast at work acquiring buildings and vacant lots adjacent to the Church. Those acquisitions include the closed Southside Child Development Center which we reported on last year.
Let’s hope that the new Cristo Rey School gets underway soon and that it has as positive of an impact on Manchester as it has had on the other 32 communities it has supported so far. It sure looks like it is going to be a wonderful addition to the community!