Our History

“This is a story about mission-driven innovation in education—innovation that is giving thousands of
children an opportunity to access high- quality university preparatory education.”
– Tom Vander Ark, CEO, GettingSmart

Cristo Rey Jesuit High School – Chicago, Ill.

1995: Father John P. Foley, S.J. returned to his hometown of Chicago by invitation of his Jesuit Provincial. The Provincial wanted to create a quality, Catholic, college preparatory high school in the Pilsen community of Chicago, a Hispanic neighborhood of working-class families with very limited options for giving their children a high quality education. The Jesuits literally walked the streets of the Pilsen neighborhood, asking the residents what they and their families needed most. A college preparatory high school was their response. Thus, Father Foley and his team created a plan to implement an innovative business model, the Corporate Work Study Program.

1996: Cristo Rey Jesuit High School opened with Father Foley as founder and the first president.

2001: News of the success of the original Cristo Rey school spread to educators and others throughout the country. Groups in Portland, Denver and Los Angeles approached Father Foley and other Cristo Rey Jesuit High School leaders about how they might replicate the school and its mission of serving students from economically challenged families in their own communities. In response, the Cristo Rey Network of schools was founded in 2001 with Father Foley as its first president.

2003: The Network was formally organized as a 501(c)3. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, along with venture philanthropists B.J. and Bebe Cassin, provided seed funding to promote the replication of the Cristo Rey schools.

2012: The Walton Family Foundation announced its investment of $1.6 million in the Cristo Rey Network to accelerate growth, primarily in states that have either vouchers or tax credits.

2014: The Cristo Rey Network began implementation of the organization’s 2020 Strategic Plan, with the objective to sustain growth while expanding impact. By 2020, Cristo Rey aims to serve 14,000 students annually in 40 Cristo Rey schools and have 20,000 alumni.

2016: The Feasibility Study Committee in Richmond was formed in April of 2016, followed by the naming of the Committee Chair, Alexa Quinn, and hiring of a Feasibility Study Coordinator, Katie Yohe.  The efforts of the committee, and the community as a whole, have helped secure financial, corporate, and community support for this project.  

2017: To further their mission and expand the healing ministry of Bon Secours, Bon Secours Ministries, founded by the Congregation of the Sisters of Bon Secours of Paris, accepted the calling as founding Religious Sponsor of Cristo Rey Richmond. 

2018: In cooperation with the Catholic Diocese of Richmond and our canonical sponsor, Bon Secours Ministries, we secured an initial site at 304 N. Sheppard, the former home of Benedictine College Preparatory High School. In addition, Peter J. McCourt was named founding President of Cristo Rey Richmond. Generous donors showed their commitment of support providing over $2 million dollars for initial start-up costs. Following the submission of the Feasibility Study Report, the Cristo Rey Network Board approved the associate membership of Cristo Rey Richmond High School in the Network.

2019: On Monday, August 19, 2019, Cristo Rey Richmond High School opened its doors to the Founding Class of 2023. This Founding Class included 95 students from 34 middles schools and 33 zip codes.

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