With over 50 construction workers, contractors and workmen on site, Cristo Rey Jesuit is receiving a major renovation overhaul this summer in preparation for its historic first graduation year. A new central air conditioning and heating system, a sleek newly designed window system, the replacement of a failed roofing system, and a brand new "face" for the front of the school are all a part transforming a decaying and dilapidated building into a 21st educational facility. Led by the visionary design of our own Father Martinez, SJ, and architect Peter Boudreaux, Fretz Construction is turning our dream school into a reality!
The juniors traveled to St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception in La Porte on Wednesday, April 25th for their first-ever off-campus retreat. The theme of the retreat was "strength for the journey" as juniors focused on the past, present and future in regards to the journeys of their lives.
The day consisted of icebreaker games, inspirational talks by faculty, individual and small group reflection times and bonding activities. Students ate lunch family style by small group and enjoyed free time at Sylvan Beach, located approximately 250 yards from the retreat center.
Two particularly poignant points in the day were the open mic session and a bracelet ceremony in which students exchanged bracelets with others and told them they would support them as companions on the journey.
The day ended with Mass at St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception church and an assignment to write a note to their future selves on the bus ride home. The letters were collected and will be given to the students on their retreat next year.
Cristo Rey Jesuit's first-ever talent show, "The Mane Event," held on Friday, April 20th, was an incredible success, selling close to 300 tickets. A variety of student organizations, including Student Council, National Honor Society and the Woods Project came together to put on the outstanding dinner and talent show.
The students' talents were outstanding, ranging from singing, playing the piano, guitar and drums, reciting original poetry and performing original music and rap. Two wonderful Masters of Ceremonies kept the audience entertained between acts. In addition, the lighting, sound, and stage crews were all comprised of student volunteers.
Social Studies teacher Sean Tellez, organizer of the talent show, was in astonishment at the capabilities of the students: "Wow! It was inspirational to see our awesome student's talent on display in what will I am sure will become an annual tradition her at CRJ. I could not be more proud of the hard work and dedication of all of these performers and all the people that made this wonderful event possible!
All proceeds benefited Cristo Rey Jesuit's Wood's Project and will help ten students participate in a two week camping and backpacking trip to Northern California in July 2012. The Woods project seeks to develop leadership capacity and life skills in inner-city students through a series of outdoor education and environmental awareness programs.
The Woods Club on campus has attended 5 field trips over the last two years. On these trips, a total of 35 Cristo Rey Jesuit students have been afforded the opportunity to experience and interact with nature.
A Hole-in-One for Cristo Rey Jesuit! The school that opened just three years ago reached another milestone on Monday, April 23rd, raising over a quarter of a million dollars for student financial aid at its inaugural golf tournament. Held at the prestigious Champions Golf Club and chaired by Bill Smith, a Cristo Rey Jesuit board member and CEO of Russell & Smith Auto Group, the Cristo Rey Jesuit Golf Classic was planned with the true enthusiast golf in mind. The pristine greens of the legendary Champions Golf Club made for a memorable day.
"We wanted this golf event to be like no other with a limited number of players to create a day that appealed to golf aficionados," said Bill Smith.
An impressive list of companies and individuals attended as team sponsors, with Cooper Industries and Denham Capital as the premier course sponsors.
"Cristo Rey Jesuit is making an incredible impact on many of the city's economically challenged youth and their families," said Kirk Hachigian, CEO of Cooper Industries. "We are honored to support Cristo Rey Jesuit and its innovative education model. Cristo Rey Jesuit is making a difference in the lives of so many and we want Cooper Industries to be a part of that."
"The mission of Cristo Rey Jesuit fits with our community mission to seek out high-impact organizations and form partnerships with those dedicated to making a difference," said Bill Zartler, founder and managing partner of Denham Capital. "We look forward to a long term relationship with Cristo Rey Jesuit."
"The success of this event is proof that leaders of Houston believe Cristo Rey Jesuit is key to the continued prosperity of this city. Cristo Rey Jesuit is providing economically-disadvantaged students a road map to become the next leaders of Houston," said Reverend TJ Martinez, SJ, Founding President. "We are so grateful for this support, yet we are far from reaching our goal of providing a college prep education for 550 students annually. Next year, our school will jump from 260 students to over 400. Every one of our students need financial aid. As word of our mission spreads, more and more students are looking to Cristo Rey Jesuit for a chance at a better life."
Cristo Rey Jesuit was once again touted as one of the leaders in education reform by the Houston chronicle.
Consider Houston, a national leader in education reform. Not only does Houston host one of the country's largest Teach For America corps - teams of high-achieving college graduates who serve as change agents in the classroom and beyond - but the Houston Independent School District also incubated the first public charter school in the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) network, which now claims more than 100 schools nationwide. Reformers in Houston created the YES Prep Public Schools Network, which is setting high standards for student learning, and also the Cristo Rey Jesuit College Preparatory School, the Catholic school where low-income students learn life lessons working part-time to raise 70 percent of the school's operating costs.
Fr. TJ Martinez –Cristo Rey Jesuit
A decaying, abandoned school building in Houston's gritty Southeast side and a young cowboy-boot-wearing priest might seem an unlikely stage and protagonist to reform Houston's secondary-school system. Yet this script is successfully performed every day at Cristo Rey Jesuit College Preparatory School.
At its helm is the dynamic Fr. TJ Martinez, founding president of Houston's Cristo Rey, which is part of a national network of innovative Catholic high schools offering promise – and rigorous college prep –to the kids of urban America. In Houston, the Cristo Rey campus near Hobby Airport revived a Catholic high school that had closed due to shifting demographics and declining enrollment. Enter the recently ordained Fr. Martinez, a Boston transplant raised in South Texas who was tapped after receiving his Harvard degree not only to lead, but to forge the Houston branch.
The campus opened in August 2009, with its first class set to graduate in May 2013. It currently serves 270 students culled from the Woodlands to Needville, and is set to enroll grades 9 through 12 in the fall of 2012. The new school "relies on the private sector, not the government, to educate Houston's youth who are living in poverty," Martinez says. At the heart of Cristo Rey's model are high-powered corporations –energy to finance, ConocoPhillips to Deutsche Bank –which pay the students' tuition as part of an intriguing work-study program: Each Cristo Rey kid is employed one day a week by his or her sponsoring firm throughout the school year. The community has embraced the new college prep's vision, with a lead gift of one million dollars from the Kinder Foundation and an inaugural gala in January 2011 that raised an astounding $1.6 million.
Giving a tour of Cristo Rey' gleaming hallways, then dropping in on a chemistry class where students enthusiastically cluster around lab experiments, Martinez emphasizes the power and primacy of his school's mission: "Cristo Rey Jesuit marries Houston's corporate culture with a college –prep culture serving children living in the most financially challenged neighborhoods, to form a partnership that will not only save the lives of these children, but [ensure] Houston's future as well."