The School That Works

Rev. Steve Shafran shows Don Bosco Cristo Rey students the chemistry classroom in the new academic and science wing. Photo credit: Catholic Standard

Rev. Steve Shafran shows Don Bosco Cristo Rey students the chemistry classroom in the new academic and science wing. Photo credit: Catholic Standard

Next year, the Salesians of Don Bosco will celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of their founder, Saint John Bosco, who dedicated his life to teaching the Catholic faith to youth in need and providing them with educational opportunities and employment training.

The legacy of that beloved patron saint for youth continues today in the school named for him, Don Bosco Cristo Rey High School in Takoma Park. Part of the nationwide Cristo Rey Network, the school is co-sponsored by the Archdiocese of Washington and the Salesians of Don Bosco, and it offers a challenging academic curriculum and an innovative Corporate Work Study Program for students from low-income families who otherwise could not afford a Catholic education.

When it opened in 2007, I had the privilege of blessing the new Don Bosco Cristo Rey High School and today I am honored to bless the school’s new Academic and Science Wing. This new addition includes state-of-the-art chemistry, biology and physics labs; a computer lab equipped with 30 laptops; five additional classrooms; a counseling center for students; and a resource room for faculty and staff. This fall, the school welcomes its largest-ever freshman class of nearly 150 students, with an overall record enrollment of nearly 400 young women and men from throughout the Washington area.

A statue of Saint John Bosco, a man known for his joyful spirit, stands inside the school’s entranceway, and one of the saint’s quotes is displayed along a nearby hallway: “What seems impossible, you will achieve by having faith and by gaining knowledge.”

Near the statue, framed portraits of the school’s first four graduating classes are proudly displayed. One hundred percent of those graduates were accepted into college and the walls of the counseling center in the new wing are adorned with dozens of colorful pennants from the colleges and universities across the United States where these first graduates now attend.

Many of those students, such as Jenifer Moreno, the class salutatorian at the school’s first graduation ceremony in 2011, are the first members of their families to achieve that milestone.  With family roots in El Salvador, Jenifer said the best way to thank her parents for their sacrifices would be to continue on to college and pursue a degree in medicine. “Now my dream is to become a transplant surgeon. If I made it this far, why not go farther?”

In the school’s Corporate Work Study Program, students gain professional experience and help earn a significant portion of the cost of their education through their jobs. Cristo Rey’s corporate partners include nearly 100 leading Washington-area businesses; educational institutions; government agencies; hospitals and health centers; law firms; non-profit agencies; and scientific, technology and engineering institutions.

At Cristo Rey, “they do teach us to go for our dreams,” said TreVon Carpenter, a member of the Class of 2013, who worked for Honest Tea headquarters in Bethesda. He plans to major in computer engineering at the University of Maryland at College Park, and he hopes to work someday for a company like Sony.

The 2013 valedictorian, Victoria Riley, worked at NASA and participated in research on solar wind, and she is now attending her dream school, Georgetown University.

Mauricio Castro, a member of Cristo Rey’s Class of 2014 who worked at a congressman’s office and at a downtown bank’s financial services headquarters, also participated in a summer program at Georgetown, taking classes in writing, international relations and biology. He dreams of someday working for a technology company like Google, or perhaps even serving in Congress. “For me, it was a blessing, the opportunities I’ve gotten here,” he said.

The sign near Cristo Rey’s entrance says it all: “The School That Works.”