January 04, 2012

University partners with Cristo Rey schools

by Andrea Hahn

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Southern Illinois University Carbondale recently entered into a partnership with a network of urban schools devoted to promoting higher education access and success for its students.

SIU Carbondale’s new partnership with the Cristo Rey Schools Network puts the University in the select company of a small group of national university partners devoted to, as Cristo Rey’s mission statement describes it, “transform urban America one student at a time.”

The partnership builds a bridge between SIU Carbondale and the five Cristo Rey schools in the Midwest: namely, two schools in Chicago, one in Waukegan, one in Kansas City and one in Indianapolis.

“Access and inclusiveness are part of our institutional DNA,” Chancellor Rita Cheng said.  “Like SIU Carbondale, the Cristo Rey schools focus on opportunity and student success, and I am confident this partnership will prove very beneficial for the students.”

Katharine Suski, interim director of undergraduate admissions at SIU Carbondale, said the partnership will help the University reach out to students at the five schools, and also to the counselors and teachers there.  She said the University will maintain this partnership with visits to the Cristo Rey schools and by inviting students and counselors from the schools to visit campus.   In addition, the University will designate some scholarship monies specifically for qualifying Cristo Rey students.

The Cristo Rey schools are Catholic schools offering a college preparatory program of study to high school students in urban communities with limited educational opportunities.  Though the schools are Catholic, the students represent various faiths and cultures. The schools serve a high percentage of minority students (95 percent) and specifically those with limited financial means regardless of race or ethnicity. The network includes 24 schools in 17 states with a total of approximately 6,500 students.

The success rate for the Cristo Rey schools is convincing; the current rate for Cristo Rey graduates accepted at a two- or four-year institution of higher learning is 100 percent.  In addition, the schools provide the kind of real world and hands-on learning promoted at SIU Carbondale with corporate work-study jobs for their students -- approximately 1,500 of them.

This partnership between SIU Carbondale and the Cristo Rey Schools Network, in the abstract, helps students with a high potential for success but with financial and sometimes cultural barriers to overcome to reach their potential.  In addition, the partnership provides an avenue for these high-achieving but economically disadvantaged students to come to SIU Carbondale, a major research university with an historic tradition of making a top-quality education accessible for those with the passion to learn and the desire to do.

Another exciting element to this partnership is its origin.  An SIU Carbondale alum affiliated with the schools suggested to Cheng that the University join the network as a national university partner.  Accordingly, SIU Carbondale representatives met with Cristo Rey network representatives, and with representatives from some of the other national university partners. 

SIU Carbondale is the only public university to partner with Cristo Rey.

For more information about the Cristo Rey Schools Network, visit its website at www.cristoreynetwork.org/