New school buys Mt. Carmel campus

HOUSTON The school will offer a college preparatory education to families living below the poverty line with limited access to a Catholic secondary education. Reverend Antonio (TJ) Martinez, S.J., President of Jesuit Cristo Rey High School, stated that the Catholic school continues an established and successful model of education begun eleven years ago in Chicago and replicated across the United States, with this being one of the newest schools of the Cristo Rey Network.

The Cristo Rey model offers a unique and innovative approach to college preparatory education that distinguishes it from other, private high schools in the city. It is a financially sustainable model with students both going to school and working at corporations across the city. Students spend four days in the classroom taking a rigorous college preparatory curriculum on an extended day program, and spend the fifth day working an entry level job at corporations and business around the city. The salaries students earn pay for 70% of their tuition with parents and fundraising closing the gap of the cost of their education. Father Martinez notes that, "students work their way through school and into higher educational programs, making Cristo Rey Houston – 'A School That Works.'"

The announcement follows two years of extensive planning, coordination and research. In the summer of 2006, the Jesuits of the New Orleans Province selected Houston as the potential location for a new high school to serve economically underprivileged families. An advisory committee of local educators, business and civic leaders worked with the Jesuits to raise funds and gather additional supporters for this project.

In August of 2007, with the approval of the Cristo Rey Network, the committee selected Sharon Jacobson of Jacobson Advisors to conduct a feasibility study which identified 75 square miles on Houston's east side – an area where a Cristo Rey school could provide needed educational opportunities to a very low socio-economic community. More than 60,000 school age children fall within this targeted area with over 37% of their families falling below the federal poverty line, 79% of which are high school age. On June 11th, the Cristo Rey Network approved the local advisory committee's request to move forward with plans to found a new Cristo Rey school in Houston.

The new school's campus will be located at 6700 Mount Carmel Drive, a site formerly occupied by the Archdiocese of Galveston Houston's Mount Carmel High School. The planned purchase of this property culminates a broad search by the Cristo Rey President and the Cristo Rey Advisory Committee. More than 15 properties were investigated as potential sites for the new Cristo Rey school, including several HISD schools, charter schools and warehouse properties.

The interest in the property formerly occupied by Mt. Carmel surfaced mid-summer. The decision in late July to approach the Archdiocese rested on two factors: there were a number of families whose economic situation qualified them to send their children to a future Cristo Rey high school (and who showed great interest in doing so), and the fact that the property offered an existing high school facility. "We are tremendously blessed," said Father Martinez, "by the Archdiocese's willingness to convey this campus to Cristo Rey, virtually as a gift."

The results of the Cristo Rey model speak for themselves. Over 95% of the students who graduate from Cristo Rey schools are accepted into college and universities around the country, many with full scholarships. Recent graduates of Cristo Rey schools around the country have or will be attending institutions of higher education such as Brown, Georgetown, Boston College and Loyola University Chicago.

The Cristo Rey President and Advisory Committee have already begun plans to renovate the existing facility over the next five to ten years. The goal is to provide a state of the art educational facility for students, teachers and administrators.

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