Founded in Chicago in 2001 by Father John P. Foley, S. J., the Cristo Rey network is the largest network of high schools in the US whose enrollment is limited to low-income youth. Cristo Rey employs an innovative business model, wherein students work five days each month in entry-level jobs at local professional companies, with the fee for their work being directed to underwrite tuition costs. Operating on a franchise system, each Cristo Rey school is a partnership between a local operator with an established track record, and the proven Cristo Rey 9-12 programming that is based on rigorous academics, four years of professional work experience, and Catholic moral values, employed in a high-expectations environment. Students’ tuition is subsidized by the same work study program that prepares them for college, as well as putting them in good position to succeed in their first job.
Cristo Rey Dallas College Prep (“CRDCP”), the 30th Cristo Rey school nationwide, welcomed its inaugural 126-member freshman class in September, 2015, operating out of the St. Augustine Drive site in Pleasant Grove, under a lease with the Catholic Diocese of Dallas. The need for a Cristo Rey school in the Pleasant Grove neighborhood in Dallas is readily apparent: of the 244,660 residents of Pleasant Grove, 64.5% are Hispanic, 29.5% are African American, and 55% of families earn $34,000 or less. The Dallas Independent School District (“DISD”) is considered an underperforming school district, and within DISD, the primary and secondary schools in Pleasant Grove are among the lowest-performing, while not benefitting from any strong, established secondary charter schools, like other areas of Dallas. Only 71% of Pleasant Grove students graduate high school, and only 41.6% of high school seniors took the ACT/SAT, and their average score was a 16/36 (22nd percentile) on the ACT, and 1104/2400 on the SAT (1550 is the benchmark for college readiness).
While the need for the new CRDCP school was apparent, the existing 60-year old facilities on the Pleasant Grove campus – originally designed for 250 elementary school students – were woefully inadequate for a 500-student 9-12 high school. So in 2015, CRDCP began preparations for a massive capital campaign to raise the funds necessary to build a new high school. In November, 2016, Crescent Growth Capital worked with Cristo Rey Dallas College Prep to close a $9.5M NMTC financing for the first phase of its new high school facility, utilizing $7M in NMTC allocation from the City of Dallas and $2.5M from Capital One Bank, as well as a construction loan provided by Frost Bank.
The $9.7M Phase 1 LEED-certified facility will house 15 classrooms, 4 state-of-the-art science labs, and offices for the principal, dean of students and dean of academics, while creating 32 new jobs.
The project site is located within a USDA-designated Food Desert, and Cristo Rey Dallas has a strict no outside food policy. They provide students with meals through the National School Lunch Program and have school-wide physical recreation time on Friday mornings to encourage healthy habits. Future goals include starting a community garden to provide healthy food to both students and the community.
CRDCP employs the same Corporate Work Study Program found in all Cristo Rey schools. The program is an innovative model of education that gives students a Catholic, college-preparatory education while earning work experience in a corporate setting. Four students rotate through the week to fill the position full-time. Each student has an assigned day on which he or she works. On Friday, the four students rotate to share the fifth day of the week. In each four-week span, each student has one week in which he or she work