Cristo Rey school seeks community involvement

Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone speaks to Joan Mack at a gathering to promote Cristo Rey Schools in 2019.

CHARLESTON—A feasibility study looking into the potential for a Cristo Rey school in the Charleston/North Charleston area is making steady progress. Most recently, the feasibility committee hired Joseph Barker II as its new coordinator. Barker currently serves as admissions director of Cristo Rey in Atlanta.  

Cristo Rey is a national network of Catholic high schools dedicated to providing low-income students with a college preparatory education. In addition to four days of classes each week, students also spend one day working in an internship for a local business.

The push to open a Cristo Rey in Charleston began in earnest in June, when about 70 leaders from area religious, business, political, and educational communities attended a kick-off event. Since then, a feasibility study committee was established, co-chaired by Gene D’Agostino and Paul Heinauer.

In addition to hiring a coordinator, the group must also generate fundraising, solidify internship jobs, select a site for the campus, and establish community engagement.

D’Agostino said the support and involvement of local businesses, religious leaders and parents, is crucial to the school’s success.

He said the high school will serve low-income kids and needs the community to be actively engaged by spreading the word and volunteering.

Conor Heaton, director of Cristo Rey school growth, said roughly 50-60% of the cost of tuition is earned by students in their part-time jobs. The remainder is calculated based on income and need. Not only is this method financially practical, it also teaches students the confidence and people skills necessary for finding a job.

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