Cristo Rey Prepares to Revitalize Southeast Fort Worth

Cristo Rey

Cristo Rey Fort Worth High School Likely to Open in Fall 2018


The Cristo Rey Network is poised to open its first Catholic preparatory high school in Fort Worth.

“The Fort Worth Catholic schools are thrilled to welcome the Cristo Rey Network,” Diocesan School Superintendent Jennifer Pelletier said.

Pending the completion of an in-depth study by a recently formed feasibility study committee, Cristo Rey Fort Worth is projected to open in the fall of 2018. It will be the second Cristo Rey school in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, and the third in Texas.

Christo Rey

A Cristo Rey student studies at a computer. (Photo Courtesy Christo Rey)

“The effort to bring Cristo Rey to Fort Worth is a collective effort by the community,” said Alma Hernandez-Blackwell, who serves as Cristo Rey Fort Worth’s feasibility study coordinator. “The committee is comprised of 35 community volunteers of varying professional backgrounds.”

Hernandez-Blackwell and her committee colleagues are currently working to raise $2.6 million for startup operating costs, plus capital costs from private philanthropy. They are also in the process of obtaining 35 letters of intent from corporate partners for the school’s corporate work-study program that gives students real-world work experience at local businesses and organizations. Corporate partners also pay a portion of each students’ tuition in return for their work.

“To date, we have secured 17 letters of intent from local businesses for the corporate work study program, collected over 100 surveys from the community gauging interest in a Cristo Rey school, raised a little over $200,000 in private philanthropy and are currently in the process of submitting various grant applications and foundation proposals,” Hernandez-Blackwell said.

Assuming the feasibility committee is successful, Cristo Rey Fort Worth plans to begin accepting applications for its inaugural freshman class in the summer of 2017. An estimated 125 students will be accepted. The new Catholic high then will add additional classes over the following three years, with the goal of reaching 500 students in total.

“I personally hope to leave a lasting legacy for the city of Fort Worth by participating in this project,” Hernandez-Blackwell said. “I want to see that the work we are doing right now to develop this model in Fort Worth will impact many generations to come.”

A PATHWAY OUT OF POVERTY

Cristo Rey Fort Worth will be in southeast Fort Worth and replace Our Mother of Mercy Catholic School, an 87-year-old campus that has seen declining enrollment over the past few years.

“Cristo Rey will bring with it needed resources that have been proven to work not only in their respective communities but also with the existing schools within those communities,” Pelletier says.

The new Catholic high school aims to play a pivotal role in revitalizing southeast Fort Worth, where poverty is high and employment is low. Following the model of its national network, the high school will only serve economically disadvantaged students. Nationwide, the 2015 average annual income for a family of four sending a student to a Cristo Rey school was $35,326.

“The education and work experience these students will gain will help ensure their acceptance into college and better prepare them to succeed at the collegiate level and beyond.”
-Alma Hernandez-Blackwell

“The education and work experience these students will gain will help ensure their acceptance into college and better prepare them to succeed at the collegiate level and beyond,” Hernandez-Blackwell said.

Since 1996, more than 20,000 students in 19 states have been positively impacted by the Cristo Rey Network’s unique blend of rigorous academics, high expectations, and professional work experience. Nationally, 88 percent of Cristo Rey students who graduated in 2013 have enrolled in college, and the college completion rates for its 2008 high school graduates was twice that of low-income high school graduates.

“We all sincerely want to help break the cycle of poverty by providing access to a high quality college-preparatory education to the underserved youth in Fort Worth,” Hernandez-Blackwell says. “We were all placed on this Earth to serve others.”

CONTINUING THE CRISTO REY STORY IN DFW

Cristo Rey opened its first DFW school in the Pleasant Grove area of southeast Dallas in July 2015.

Cristo Rey Dallas has made great strides in its first year.

“For our incoming freshman class, we had over 240 applications,” said Gunnar Rawlings, who served as the feasibility study coordinator for Cristo Rey Dallas. Today, Rawlings is director for Cristo Rey Dallas’ corporate work study program. “I think this speaks to the success of our founding class and how proud we are of the students and our families.  The individual growth our staff and job partners have seen in students is tremendous.”

Based on Cristo Rey’s success nationally, and already within DFW’s own backyard, the new Fort Worth high school has the potential to place kids on a pathway out of poverty.

“We could not be more excited for the Cristo Rey story to continue to Fort Worth,” Rawlings says. “I am confident there are hundreds of families that will jump right into the deep end with Cristo Rey Fort Worth.”

Check out our full story on Cristo Rey Dallas


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