Lexington Institute: November 2014

One of the nation’s most powerful urban education success stories of the past decade, the Cristo Rey Network serves exclusively economically disadvantaged students with its Catholic mission to prepare them all to enter and graduate from college.

Many expect that the Network’s newest school, in California’s Silicon Valley, utilizing an innovative blended learning model, will define a powerful new direction for the Network’s future. “It appears to me that the future of education has got to take technology in stride,” observes the school’s board co-chairman John A. Sobrato, noting how the model reduces overhead costs while strengthening individualized instruction with real-time feedback to teachers.

This year, the network’s 28 schools serve 9,000 students around the country, 96 percent of whom are people of color. Each student’s family contributes $1,000 for tuition, on average. Employers for the school’s corporate work study program provide most of the balance needed to cover costs.

Work study programs are required of all students, and relationships with employers are central to the Cristo Rey model. All 1,400 of Cristo Rey’s 2014 graduates nationwide were accepted to college, and 90 percent enrolled.

Cristo Rey’s 2008 graduating class enrolled in college at three times the rate of peers of similar economic backgrounds and completed college at nearly four times that rate.
– See more at: http://www.lexingtoninstitute.org/the-cristo-rey-network-serving-sustainable-success/#sthash.D3uW5EU0.dpuf

Gazette: September 2014

Don Bosco Cristo Rey High School is in a decent Takoma Park neighborhood, though some might say it’s in transition. Many of its students – who come from Montgomery and Prince George’s counties as well as Washington, D.C. are from low-income families and obtain aid to attend, qualifying for free or reduced-price lunch and other programs.

Catholic Standard: September 2014

Just after sprinkling holy water on one of the three new state-of-the-art science labs at Don Bosco Cristo Rey High School in Takoma Park, Cardinal Donald Wuerl smiled and said, “It shows you what faith and people’s willingness to work together can accomplish.”

Moments earlier, while presiding at the Sept. 4 blessing ceremony for Cristo Rey’s new Academic and Science Wing, the cardinal had remembered standing in mud years earlier at the spot where the new science labs are now.

During the blessing ceremony, Cardinal Wuerl encouraged students to stay connected to God, their faith and their community while they work and dream for the future, and he highlighted the new wing as an example of that. “Always stay connected to that dream – it’s yours and it’s ours,” he said, saying that would guide them as they one day achieve “all the things you’re going to be, and all the things you’re going to accomplish.”

The new wing at Cristo Rey, with 15,000 additional square feet of space for the school, includes chemistry, biology and physics labs; a computer lab; five additional classrooms; a counseling center for students; and a resource room for faculty and staff. This fall, Don Bosco Cristo Rey High School achieved two other milestones, as it welcomed its largest-ever freshman class of nearly 150 students, among its overall record enrollment of nearly 400 young women and men from throughout the Washington area.

Cardinal Donald Wuerl blessed the new Don Bosco Cristo Rey High School in Takoma Park when it opened in 2007, and he also blessed a new wing in 2010 there that included a library and administrative and student support offices. The Catholic high school, cosponsored by the Archdiocese of Washington and the Salesians of Don Bosco, helps students work toward their dreams by participating in an innovative corporate work study program, where they gain professional experience and help earn the majority of the cost of their education through their jobs.

At the blessing ceremony, Nancy Salmeron, a senior at Cristo Rey, thanked the cardinal for his support, saying, “You have journeyed with us every step of the way… Thank you for caring about us and being with us.”

Guests at the ceremony were welcomed by Larry Savoy, the school’s principal, and those on the stage included Father Thomas Dunne, the provincial for Salesians in the eastern United States and Canada; and Robert Easby-Smith, the chair of the Board of Directors for Don Bosco Cristo Rey High School. Four large banners on the stage depicted the school’s patron saint, St. John Bosco, the founder of the Salesian order, a man known for his joyful faith who championed providing educational and work opportunities for youth.

Salesian Father Steve Shafran, Don Bosco Cristo Rey High School’s founding president, thanked the archdiocese and the Salesians for taking the risk to start a new Catholic high school that provides educational and work opportunities to students from low-income families who would otherwise not be able to afford a Catholic education. Many of its students come from immigrant families, and 83 percent of Cristo Rey’s class of 2013 were the first generation in their families to attend college. Cristo Rey has a 100 percent college acceptance rate for its first four graduating classes.

“A miracle has risen before our eyes… The real builders are you, and our students,” Father Shafran said, expressing thanks for the generosity of donors and the support of Cristo Rey’s corporate partners, who include about 90 leading Washington-area businesses, educational institutions, government agencies, hospitals and health centers, law firms, non-profit agencies and scientific, technology and engineering institutions.

“We are learning with strong faith, everything is possible,” Father Shafran said, pointing out how the school grew while weathering a severe nationwide economic downturn in its early years.

The Cristo Rey educational experience is transformational for the students, and for all those involved in it, the priest said.

That point was later echoed by Tim Flynn, the owner and president of the ImpactOffice products company in Beltsville and Cristo Rey’s first board chair, who stood proudly with his wife Patti in one of the new classrooms.

“There’s ne question the opportunity this school provides would never be available to many of these students,” said Flynn, who is a corporate partner with the school. “As good as it is for the students, it’s equally good at the businesses they work at. The coworkers get a lot out of seeing the progress and being a part of the growth” of the students, he said.

Guests at the blessing ceremony toured the new facilities, which include the Carlyle Computer Lab, sponsored by the Robert and Kate Niehaus Foundation and the Carlyle Group. The lab includes 30 new laptop computers that fold into the desks.

In the nearby physics lab that features spacious lab tables with access to gas, sinks and a prep room, science teacher Rudi Feiler said, “This is the best facility I’ve taught in, and this is my 10th year of teaching… They (students) are excited, and they’re ready to roll.”

Next door in the biology lab, teacher Amanda Gaal, standing not far from a model human skeleton, said the facilities will help give students “an amazing foundation” in science. “This facility can be used for state-of-the-art labs. There’s no limit to what we can do here,” she said.

A senior student in her class, upon seeing the new lab, told her, “I’ve been waiting for this moment.”

In the chemistry lab, teacher Michael Ferguson said his goal was “to find students in class who have a passion for science, and enable them to maximize their time here,” and for all students, to show how chemistry “is relevant to everyday life” related to issues like nutrition and the environment. “It’s a tremendous facility,” he said.

Senior Jajuan Moorer, who has been working at Georgetown University during his four years at Cristo Rey, said he was thrilled at his school’s new facilities. “For me, I’m a science guy!” he explained, adding that he hopes to major in biology or biochemistry in college.

Fellow Cristo Rey senior George Salamanca, who works at the Winston & Strawn law firm in Washington, now is taking an anatomy and physiology class in the school’s new biology lab. “Now I need orientation. I get lost sometimes” in the new wing, he joked.

Like his classmates, he has dreams for the future, and one day, he hopes to be the CEO of his own company “and give back to the community, because they helped us so much to get to where we are now.”

Don Bosco Cristo Rey High School in Takoma Park is one of 28 Catholic schools in the nationwide Cristo Rey Network, which serves 9,000 students in 27 cities in 18 states and the District of Columbia. The network’s two newest schools opened in recent weeks in Atlanta and in San Jose, Calif.

Gazette: July 2014

Bit by bit, a new gymnasium floor is rounding into shape at Don Bosco Christo Rey High School in Takoma Park. It is still unfinished, but soon enough, the boys’ basketball team, which used to practice on a tile floor with roll away baskets, will have a much improved court and drop down hoops.

As the court goes through its process of construction, so does the basketball program at the school that opened in 2007. This summer, Athletic Director Chris Lesesne, who is entering his second year with the Wolfpack, had the team participate in the Born to Bump Summer League at Wilson High School in Washington, D.C. The league featured top-flight teams such as Gonzaga, Wilson and Our Lady of Good Counsel. Don Bosco struggled throughout the league and failed to win a game, but Lesesne said he saw it as a great learning experience for a team that is still getting used to playing more organized basketball and features a few first-time team players.

“They grew tremendously,” Lesesne said. “We played Maret the first game and Good Counsel throughout the regular season. We ended up playing those teams again and it was a different caliber. I believe we’ve earned a lot of respect no matter what the score was just on how much we matured and improved during the summer.”

But the Don Bosco players, most of whom reside in D.C. and Prince George’s County and have limited financial resources, according to the school, find themselves in a unique situation. Their biggest challenge comes in the form of time management. During the school year, they have to learn to balance school, athletics and Don Bosco’s Corporate Work Study Program. Every student at Don Bosco participates in the program, and, according to the school’s marketing director, Claire Wyrsch, mostly have entry-level clerical jobs at law firms, accounting firms, hospitals and even NASA.

“It really opens their eyes to possibilities,” Wyrsch said. “They’re seeing professions that they’ve never imagined.”

Both Lesesne and Wyrsch know that the work program will prevent the Wolfpack from ever becoming a dominant atheltics’ program. It provides scheduling challenges — they often have to play games on Sundays when most other schools have the day off — and takes time away from practice. But Lesesne and Wyrsch also reiterated the fact that the school’s focus has always been on education. Lesesne believes that athletics can help instill a well-rounded high school experience for the students and serves as another key to a college education.

“We’re not looking to be a big powerhouse,” Lesesne said. “Our focus is to give our young men and women an opportunity to achieve in academics.”

He credits the second-year coaching staff of Jack Buchanan and Jerry Mitchell, both longtime coaching veterans of CYO basketball, with maintaining that message.

“[Buchanan and Mitchell] are very much invested in our program and understanding what the mission of Don Bosco Cristo Rey is as far as educating our students,” Lesesne said. “Bringing these two gentlemen in could not have been a much better reward because of the heart that they show, the passion that they give our young men in becoming who they are and knowing the game of basketball.”

Buchanan and Mitchell will have a tough task ahead of them this coming season, but they expect to return nine players, including four seniors, whom Lesesne called the core of the team. Dematri Justice, a rising senior, is the returning leading scorer. Lesesne said he expects more wins this season as the players and coaches get even more familiar with one another and develop a more sophisticated offense.


CBS: June 2014

With the help of Cristo Rey High School’s partnership with the business community, every senior gets into college. Dean Reynolds reports on a Jesuit priest whose movement is spreading across the nation.

Biznow Online: May 2013

Last Thursday, we stopped by the 7th annual Celebrity Waiters Luncheon in Chevy Chase, benefiting Don Bosco Cristo Rey High School in Takoma Park. Snapped here: event co-hosts Leon Harris of ABC 7 and Sue Palka of Fox 5 with Don Bosco Cristo Rey prez Fr. Steve Shafran and Suzanne Kennedy of ABC 7.

We also snapped some folks with CRE ties: Charles Baine of USI Insurance Services, CohnReznick’s Jerry Distefano, Lou Boland of Boland, and Lawrence Reeves of Certified Building Services.

Diversity and the Bar: May/June 2013

After miguel colon lost his father to gun violence at age three, his mother fled new york city to seek a life for her children unshackled by too familiar crime. With few viable options, she settled in the poverty – stricken Washington, D.C.

Catering Magazine: Mar/Apr 2013

With statistics verifying the skyrocketing rates of childhood obesity; controversy raging over the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 (see sidebar); and Michelle Obama championing the anti-obesity cause, upgrading the quality of school cafeteria food has become a national obsession. Not surprisingly, it is a top priority for foodservice providers, too—from full-service caterers, to entrepreneurial start-ups, to global corporations—serving campuses from elementary schools with low-income popula- tions to private universities with hefty tuitions.

Though the school budgets and student demographics may vary dramatically, the challenges facing food providers often are the same: among them, how to make healthier ingredients like whole grains and vegetables appealing to carb-crazy young people, how to cope with dietary restrictions and rising rates of veganism, and how to teach students to eat more healthfully even after school and throughout their lives.

In many places, allowing students to customize their meals is one answer. But the most consistent and far-reaching change is the move away from processed, frozen, and heat-and-serve food to fresh ingredients and freshly prepared dishes.

See More

Washington Business Journal: February 2013

The backlit glass screen glowed as Michala Slade tapped away at the keyboard of her computer deep inside a row of cubicles. Not an unusual sight in the busy Washington office of The Carlyle Group LP, except that she is only 15 years old and in 10th grade.

Slade is one of 326 students enrolled in the Corporate Work Study Program at Don Bosco Cristo Rey High School, a private college preparatory school in Takoma Park that partners with businesses across the Washington metro area. For students, the program offers an opportunity to gain some professional experience early on, before they continue their education outside the walls of DBCR. For businesses, it trains the workforce of the future while providing capable, eager hands, willing to perform often mundane but essential office tasks for a low price.

“For me the biggest [value of] this program is the self-responsibility I see the students acquire, the reins they take of their own life,” said Kevin Virostek, managing partner for Greater Washington at Ernst & Young LLP.

The school trains students through a preparatory boot camp of sorts, then sends a rotating team of four to the partnering company’s office from September until June, with each student working about one day a week — five days per month. In return for what essentially equates to one full-time staffer, the company typically pays $30,000.

The price tag is one of the reasons businesses find the program appealing: it’s a one-time, reasonable fee for a temporary employee that comes with no burdensome administrative requirements. And the school even offers a “return policy” — should a student prove not a good fit, he or she is promptly replaced.

“These kids are doing jobs that are hard to fill and have a high turnover,” said Robert Easby-Smith, chairman of the DBCR board of directors and partner with the Chesapeake Restaurant Group in Vienna. “The company knows the job will be covered for the year so it’s a win-win program.”

For McLean-based Science Applications International Corp., Don Bosco Cristo students greet people at the front desk, help with audio-visual setups and provide logistics support at conferences. They also work in mail rooms and information technology departments; they answer phones, secure and prepare meeting space and compile briefing materials.

“Thirty thousand dollars is reasonable and absolutely worth it,” said Carla Post, SAIC’s assistant vice president and director of dining and conference services.

Student employees begin working through the program in the ninth grade, learning the basics of business etiquette — showing up on time, dressing appropriately, navigating the premises, and interacting with others — while simultaneously sharpening their professional skills. And with time, they become quite polished — “diamonds in the rough,” particularly after those first two years of employment when students get their footing, said the Rev. Steve Shafran, founder of the program and president of DBCR. “They have a good attitude and a resilience that shines through.”

To solicit partners, Shafran, who “took the program from binder to life and made it happen,” meets with company executives and their human resource managers and explains why sponsorship is in their best interest: it’s easy, inexpensive and value-laden for the company. The students will do good work for at least a year — though many return to the same company throughout high school — and they become ensconced in the corporate culture. Setting up a partnership is hassle-free, because the Don Bosco Cristo Rey Work Study of the Archdiocese of Washington Inc. is actually a student employment agency. It is incorporated separately from the school, and the students are DBCR employees.

“I contract with this legal entity. I get a bill. I pay it. I get a team of four student-employees for a year,” said Virostek.

At the Washington office of Latham & Watkins LLP, Christopher Gaitan, 15, offered a firm handshake to a visitor. One of his responsibilities is preparing inactive files for off-site storage. Gaitan’s gradually earned greater responsibility — quickly getting the hang of the records management software, and now creating file entries in the database.

“We want them to be a team player,” said Kerri Gilmore Mesiah, information resources manager at Latham & Watkins. “Our goal is to expose them to challenging work with the expectation that they’ll be successful.”

There is, of course, a feel-good, charitable element to the partnerships, when you consider that student acceptance into DBCR is based on income — “Are you poor enough?” in the words of Shafran. The median family income is $38,821; the average household size is four. The $7,500 earned by students is applied to the cost of education, which comes to about $13,500 per student. Collectively, student corporate earnings cover 50 percent of the school’s operating expenses. Families are required to pay a minimal fee.

This year local students will earn $2 million. Across the national network students will earn $44 million.

But it’s not just philanthropy. The DBCR model was the brainchild of a few priests outside Chicago who wanted to improve high school graduation rates of poor children, while providing tangible benefits to companies that participate. The result is what Chris Ullman, director of global communications at The Carlyle Group, calls “a two-way street.”

And it’s gaining traction. Today 25 schools are in the network nationwide. At DBCR, the first two classes that participated in the work study program, which launched in 2007, graduated with 100 percent college acceptance.

Looking ahead, business leaders concede that many jobs today — from paper filing to answering the phones — will disappear from the workplace tomorrow, thanks in no small part to changing processes. To ensure staff keep pace, managers are putting greater emphasis on teaching junior hires technology skills, graphic design and numbers analysis. And that is fine with today’s students, who feel perfectly comfortable seated at the computer — developing a PowerPoint presentation or designing an Excel spreadsheet from scratch.

Ultimately this program is about training today’s students for tomorrow’s workplace, said Gerren Price, associate director of youth programs for the mayor’s office in Washington: “I really believe young people who have good professional experiences in their youth will be more successful in the future.”

The fine print

Don Bosco Cristo Rey’s work-study program is about more than philanthropy. Here’s why it’s worth the money.

What you get: A rotating team of four studentsfrom September until June, with each student covering about one day a week or five days per month.

What it costs: $7,500 per student, $30,000 per team.

How it works: Businesses contract with the work study program, which handles payroll, I-9, workers compensation, and all employment/tax-related matters.

Why it’s worth it: Businesses get what equates to a full-time employee for a reasonable wage, while saving money on taxes, health benefits, and other expenditures.

How it helps: The cost funds 50 percent of the cost of education for the student employees.

Who to contact: Executive Director Alicia Bondanella, 443-285-1478 or bondanellaa@dbcr.org

Workforce in training

Don Bosco Cristo Rey corporate partners 2012-2013

Abacus Technology Corp.

Akin Gump Strauss Hauer

& Feld LLP


Aldon Management

B.F. Saul Company

Baker Botts LLP

Baker Hostetler LLP

Baker Tilly Virchow Krause LLP


Bond Beebe

Brookfield Office Properties Inc.

Choice Hotels International

Clark Construction Group LLC

Coakley & Williams

Construction Inc.

CohnReznick LLP

Counselors Title LLC

Ernst & Young LLP

Fannie Mae

Fitzgerald Auto Malls

Francis J. Collins Funeral Home

Gannett Company Inc.

Gleason Flynn Emig &


Gray Plant Mooty

Hilton McLean

Honest Tea

Hyman Phelps McNamara PC

Impact Office Products

Jones Day

Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP

Kirkland & Ellis LLP


Latham & Watkins LLP

Manatt Phelps & Phillips LLP

Miller & Long Concrete


Ourisman Honda

Patton Boggs LLP

PCM Services Inc.

PNC Bank

Presidio Networked Solutions

Reed Smith LLP

Ridgewells Catering

RLJ Lodging Trust

Russell Reynolds Associates

Science Applications

International Corp.

Savantage Solutions

Sheehy Auto Stores

Sidley Austin LLP


TDF Foundation

The Brickman Group Ltd.

The Carlyle Group

The Fernandez Group

The Meltzer Group

Van Scoyoc Associates

Venable LLP


White & Case LLP

Wilson Elser Moskowitz

Edelman & Dicker LLP

Winston & Strawn LLP

The Washington Post: January 2013

by Jay Mathews

Twelve years ago, I stumbled across a story that seemed too good to be true. A Catholic high school in Chicago ensured its financial survival by having students help pay their tuition by working one day a week in clerical jobs at downtown offices.

This was a new idea in U.S. secondary education. New ideas are not necessarily a good thing, because they often fail. But the creator of Cristo Rey Jesuit High School was an educational missionary named John P. Foley who had spent much of his life helping poor people in Latin America. I was not going to dump on an idea from a man like that without seeing how it worked out.

Now I know. The Cristo Rey network has grown to 25 schools in 17 states, including a campus in Takoma Park, where more than half the students are from Prince George’s County and more than a third are from the District. It is blossoming in a way no other school, public or private, has done in this region.

Foley started the original school in 1996 in the Pilsen/Little Village section of southwest Chicago, a heavily Hispanic area. To some, it seemed to be a foolish venture. Catholic schools were dying in the nation’s urban neighborhoods. There was no way to pay for them.

But Richard Murray, a management consultant Foley knew, had an inspiration. What if Foley divided the student body into teams of four and assigned each team to an office job in the city? Each student would work one day a week. Their combined salaries could guarantee the school’s future.

More than 90 percent of the students at the original Cristo Rey school were from low-income families. Few had been subjected to the pressures of big-city offices. But they received proper training for their clerical assignments. As the experiment proceeded, they realized the writing, reading and math skills they were learning in school were relevant to their new jobs — and their work experience would help them find jobs to pay their way through college.

Foley urged other cities to adopt the unorthodox Cristo Rey approach. When he took some of his Chicago students to Los Angeles, a skeptical California teenager asked, “Don’t you think it’s nuts that you are doing all this work and don’t see any money out of it?”

One of the Chicago students answered: “Maybe I don’t see any money, but I get an education.”

A network of new schools began to grow, including Takoma Park’s Don Bosco Cristo Rey High School, which opened in 2007 as the first Archdiocese of Washington high school in more than 55 years. Today, it has 325 students who “work one full day per week at law firms, banks, hospitals, universities and other professional corporate partners and are in the classroom the other four days,” spokeswoman Alicia Bondanella said.

More than 100 companies and organizations — including Ernst & Young, Georgetown University Hospital and Miller & Long Concrete Construction — employ Don Bosco students. Each student makes $7,500 a year, which is applied to the school’s $13,500 tuition. The remainder of the cost is covered by fundraising and the student’s family.

Bondanella said that 93 percent of students received outstanding or good ratings in their mid-year evaluations at their workplaces. Their attendance rate at work was 99 percent. Every one of the school’s 2011 and 2012 graduates were accepted into two- or four-year colleges. Eighty-two percent of the 2011 graduates, the first at Don Bosco to complete the four-year program, enrolled for a second year of college, twice the rate for students of similar backgrounds.

Hopefully the network will grow and perhaps embrace a bigger challenge: How about a college designed just for low-income students in the Cristo Rey way, paying the bills while establishing an unbreakable connection between what they are learning in class and what they are doing at work?

CNN: June 2011

Washington (CNN) — There was a time not too long ago when 19-year-old Derontae Mason slept in homeless shelters and school playgrounds.

Now Mason is heading to college with his sights set on becoming a pediatrician, thanks to the Don Bosco Cristo Rey High School in Takoma Park, Maryland, a Catholic college prep school for low-income teens.

“I had many obstacles that came across my way and made me want to be like, just forget it, throw in the towel you know? But the teachers, the staff, friends, family they all pulled together with Don Bosco and helped me overcome those obstacles,” said Mason.

Mason is part of Don Bosco’s first graduating class of 70 students, all of whom have already been accepted to various colleges and universities, said Rev. Steve Shafran, president of Don Bosco Cristo Rey.

High school wasn’t always easy for him. In his junior year, one of his close friends was killed in a drive-by shooting. But his teachers kept prodding him to stay on track, and now, Mason is bound for Potomac State college in West Virginia on a scholarship.

“For me, Derontae is a great story for a lot of inner city kids that don’t have hope, that don’t have somebody to help them move forward,” Shafran said.

Domestic problems and personal conflicts forced Mason out to the streets when he was 15. As one of six children being raised by a single mom with little money, he was in and out of homeless shelters.

A child advocate first alerted Mason’s mother about Don Bosco, one of 24 schools in the country that use the Cristo Rey model: a combination of employment and academics.

Students must work at one of the school’s designated job partners. The students are paid when the employer makes a financial contribution to the school. So, as it turns out, the students are working their way through school.

“They’re picking up the culture of that corporate environment. They see the people that are there, and they’re picking up some great skills of interaction that’s helping to mold them and their own character,” said Shafran.

For Mason, Don Bosco went even further, helping to arrange housing so he wouldn’t have to sleep on the streets. Families of other students at the school agreed on a rotation to let Mason to stay in their homes.

For Mason, it’s just the beginning. A determined, soft-spoken young man, Mason said he will always cherish his four years at the high school.

“I walk away from Don Bosco knowing I have people who care about me, more determination, perseverance than I can ever imagine.”

CNN’s Lisa Sylvester and NuNu Japaridze contributed to this story.