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Schools join forces to support Cristo Rey High

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SAN DIEGO — Five San Diego-area Catholic schools — the Academy of Our Lady of Peace (OLP), Cathedral Catholic High School, Mater Dei Catholic High School, St. Augustine High School and Nativity Prep Academy — are collaborating to enhance classrooms at Cristo Rey San Diego High School.

It all started when Cathedral Catholic’s president, Dr. Kevin J. Calkins, who is also a board member for Cristo Rey San Diego, was meeting with Cristo Rey’s chief advancement officer, Beth Nicar, to discuss progress at the school.

“When Beth brought up the upcoming classroom renovations, it immediately dawned on me that our local Catholic high schools, including Cathedral Catholic, could support the effort,” he said.

So, Calkins reached out to the heads of three other local Catholic high schools — Jesuit Father Joaquin Martinez, president of Mater Dei Catholic; Dr. Lauren Lek, head of school at OLP; and Ed Hearn, president of St. Augustine High School — all of whom committed to supporting Cristo Rey’s classroom renovations.

Gilbert Brady, the president of Nativity Prep, is also a Cristo Rey San Diego board member. Like Calkins, he heard about the capital campaign from Nicar and wanted to lend Nativity Prep’s support to the effort as well.

“I was delighted for Cristo Rey, but I was also proud of our Catholic high school community,” said Calkins. “This is a sign of solidarity for our San Diego Catholic community.”

This solidarity will renovate a classroom at Cristo Rey San Diego, which is located at the former St. Jude Academy, a K-8 parish school that closed in 2011. The classroom will be one of four renovated this summer as part of the school’s spring capital campaign.

Cristo Rey San Diego is also prioritizing the construction of a state-of-the-art chemistry lab for the class of rising 11th-graders who will study chemistry in fall 2022. The lab will include essential technology and supplies, including lab tables, desks, chemicals, safety supplies, glassware, lab equipment and books.

“Our building is more than 60 years old and requires extensive improvements to fully meet the needs of our students,” says Bob Nascenzi, president of Cristo Rey San Diego. “We are grateful to our sister and brother Catholic schools for their support.”

Cristo Rey San Diego is hoping to raise $100,000 for its classroom renovation campaign and will hold a special giving day Thursday, April 7.

“The most important part of our jobs as educators is to ensure our students have access to excellent resources and tools to lay the foundation for success,” said Lek. “In this era of global connectivity, I am proud that OLP has come together with its fellow Catholic schools in San Diego to support Cristo Rey’s growth. As one of us excels, all Catholic schools excel.”

Father Martinez said, “I hope our support and sharing of resources for Cristo Rey inspires others to contribute to their classroom renovation goals.”

Cristo Rey San Diego provides a college-preparatory education and unique work-study program to underserved students. Its mission is to educate young people of limited economic means to become men and women of faith, purpose and service, who are prepared for life. The families pay tuition on a sliding-basis based on their income, with some paying less than $100 per month.

Launched in August 2020, Cristo Rey San Diego currently enrolls freshmen and sophomores and is adding additional levels each year with the goal of enrolling 350 to 400 high school students from freshmen to seniors by 2024.

It is the 37th school in the national Cristo Rey Network, which began in 1996, and which now boasts 23,100 alumni and a 90-percent college enrollment rate. Compared to the overall U.S. low-income population, Cristo Rey students are twice as likely to complete a bachelor’s degree by age 24.

Cristo Rey San Diego High School is having an open house on May 1 for prospective families. For more information or to support the school, visit cristoreysandiego.org.

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