The push to expand the Cristo Rey Network to Milwaukee has gained momentum with a $2 million grant from The Burke Foundation.
The grant is intended to support the startup of the Cristo Rey Jesuit Milwaukee High School, which would operate under the model of the Cristo Rey Network, a national grouping of Catholic, college preparatory high schools known for supplementing classroom time with real world work experience.
“The successful track record of the Cristo Rey Network and its 26 urban high schools across the country speaks to the transformative impact a Cristo Rey school could have on young people in Milwaukee,” said Andrew Stith, director of the Cristo Rey feasibility study initiative, conducted in an effort to meet a set of benchmarks set forth by the Cristo Rey Network.
Cristo Rey Jesuit Milwaukee High hopes to open by fall of 2015, pending the completion of the feasibility study this spring and approval from both the Cristo Rey Network and the Jesuits, who would potentially serve as the religious sponsor of the school.
“It’s a pretty exhaustive and thorough study,” Stith said about the feasibility study. “It’s about two years now that we’ve been looking at this feasibility study and doing the work that we need to do to really explore the viability of the school.”
In addition to assessing the need for a Cristo Rey high school in Milwaukee and the interest of parents and students in such a school, the study has been analyzing potential school sites and gauging the commitment of potential religious sponsors, particularly the commitment of the Jesuits.
The feasibility study has also aimed to measure the level of support from the business community.
“The business community seems to be very enthusiastic about the opportunity for these students to go into these businesses and do real work to help fund their education and help these businesses in a real way,” Stith said.
Through the Cristo Rey education model, students spend one day each week in a Work Study Program during all four years of high school. The program plants students in companies and organizations, such as law firms, banks and hospitals, where they gain professional work experience. Students’ earnings, distributed by the program, help cover their tuition.
Milwaukee’s Cristo Rey high school would serve about 400 students. A search for a founding school president was launched earlier this month, according to the network’s website.
It is not yet clear where the school would be located. Stith declined to comment on the progress of the Cristo Rey Network in securing a building.