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“Hello, my name is Damarion and I am a 10th grade student at Cristo Rey Richmond High School. My favorite subjects are geometry, world history, and P.E. The teachers are the reason I love these classes because they make me feel included. I came from a school where I didn’t fit in because of how shy I was, and this school gave me the opportunity to express who I truly am. My classmates make my experience even better. Everyone comes from different cultures but we are a family, one full of loving and caring people.

“Last year, the Corporate Work Study Program (CWSP) gave me a job with CREATIVE. I filed checks, worked on computer software, labeled order numbers on boxes before shipping them, worked on projects for the company and attended meetings about companies selling their products to CREATIVE. I developed communication, leadership, and time management skills. The experience I had at this company helped me step out of my comfort zone and be more confident.

“Last year I struggled with the spread of COVID-19. We lost family members and people we loved most. I experienced ups and downs. I was not able to learn in person, see the staff and my friends, or have easy communication with them. Luckily, we had technology to assist us during these times. The school sent us home with laptops so we could continue learning on Zoom. I felt like I was ahead of other students at other schools because I could still keep advancing in my schoolwork. I also felt like I was cared for not only as a student, but as a family member. Being virtual helped me improve my grades, feel a part of something, and feel loved.

“This year, I spend two days in-person and the rest virtual. My favorite virtual activities are working out with video tutorials, doing labs on teachingchemistry.org, and jotting down notes on the videos we watch during history class. My most favorite part of being in person is CWSP class. We are learning about elevator pitches, personal branding, workplace safety, and the employee rights in a work environment. I get really enthused about the CWSP mentorship program because we get to meet with our supervisor from our companies. This year, I work for Bliley’s Funeral Home. We learn about the different positions and how to excel at them. I’ve been able to get a real job thanks to the CWSP program preparing me.

“I have enjoyed the two years I’ve been at Cristo Rey Richmond. The way they’ve treated me and my family has been a really good experience. For next year, I would like to envision the school full of diverse students ready to learn, and more staff who bring a positive attitude. This will boost my confidence for years to come. When I leave this wonderful school, I want to attend the University of Virginia. Once I get there, I am going to major in Business/Economics to pursue my lifelong dream of becoming an entrepreneur.

“Cristo Rey is preparing me for the future I want. They use every resource to ensure my success, including the cool technology to help us learn. I hope you will help next year’s class have the same advantages. Thank you.” – Damarion, Class of 2023

Please give today and your gift will be doubled. Damarion is counting on you!

by Dr. Lynn Waidelich

Coronovirus has taken so much from so many. There have been times over the last six months, when each of us have wondered if there is anything safe from the virus. 

After Orientation Week at Cristo Rey Richmond, I will propose that HOPE is safe; hope is secure, and hope found its way to the surface in a very hot and humid gymnasium last Tuesday during New Student Orientation. We started the day setting up tables and laying out stacks of handouts. We had hand sanitizer stations and tested our thermometers. Our families trickled in just before noon, and one by one, they visited seven stations spread out on the gym floor. We welcomed them in our masks and gloves, requested  signed paperwork, and confirmed addresses. By the time the families got to my station, they were sweaty and overwhelmed with information. We had told them too much and not enough at the same time. My job, as the Assistant Principal, was to give the students their class schedule and explain our complicated hybrid model for the upcoming school year. I explained the four virtual school days per week, and the one live day, using a green highlighter to circle their class schedules and explained Zoom links to new students. 

At the end of my spiel, I stepped away to pick up the right sized t-shirt for our new 9th grade students. Then, I got to welcome them to the Class of 2024 by dramatically opening up their new t-shirts displaying CLASS OF 2024 on the back. This moment, recreated nearly 100 times that evening, was a moment of magic buried beneath the minutiae of orientation.  When I said “Welcome to the Class of 2024,” a smile would begin to form on the students’ faces. It was hidden by their masks, of course, but you could see it walk up their cheeks and light up their eyes. 

They were standing next to their moms or grandmas or in between their parents, sometimes they had younger siblings running around their feet, and at that moment, you could see the spark of hope. I asked rhetorically, “Do you know when we will have done our job for you?” They hesitated, wondering if it was a trick question and why in the world was I asking this. I answered for each student, “Our job is done when you graduate from college. We are here to support you to and through college graduation.”

Their faces lit up with the hope of graduating college and the opportunities that would present. Some of their mommas cried or said “thank you”. Some of the families cheered. Regardless of the student, tall or short, studious or relaxed, organized or disheveled, I could see a flash of the possibility they hold within. In a world that tells us hope is lost, I would suggest, hope is inherent. It smolders underneath the facade, and for some, it only comes to the surface on rare occasions but it is there. 

On a hot summer day, in an un-air conditioned gym, amidst a pandemic, we were blessed to witness the hope in our incoming class. Now the work begins. I promised these families our job is not done until their young people graduate from college. This is not an easy promise. It is what gets us up in the morning and what keeps us up at night but is a promise built on hope. As our founder, Father John Foley said, “May our hope be so outrageously bold that people will laugh at us if they knew what we hoped for.”

On Sunday, November 24, we celebrated in the Church the “Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe,” a day more commonly known as the “Feast of Christ the King.” So today, we are celebrating our feast day. As our founder, Fr. John Foley, SJ has said, “Our school movement bears that name, reminding us constantly that the work is not ours. This is a mission that has been entrusted to us to give glory to our King. That also means that we should take time now and then to check back on how we are fulfilling that responsibility. How faithful are we being to this mission of Christ the King/Cristo Rey?” 

Our mission says that we here at Cristo Rey Richmond are “a Catholic learning community that educates young people of limited economic means to become men and women of faith, purpose and service.” Faith. Purpose. Service. These are our three core values that guide all that we say and do at Cristo Rey schools. 

So what can we take from this feast? Well, the most important thing is whether Jesus really is the one who you consider your leader, and whether you grasp that God truly does reign over the universe. You know, whenever people read the First Commandment, which talks about not worshiping gods other than the One True God, people sometimes laugh. They say, “Well, I obviously don’t worship some other God. And I don’t have little statues or idols that I worship.” But then if you ask them if their lives are ordered around something like money or status or power or security or physical health, they’ll pause. Because maybe one of those things has become a kind of God for them. A kind of king. So one question to ask yourself this week may be, “Who is in charge of my life?” 

This day reminds us what the Christian thinking is all about: that Jesus really is the King, the Lord of our lives. We can say, with St. Paul, “It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me.” If we say anything else, we are horsing around with Christianity and not really living it. If we pay lip service to Jesus but do not submit completely to him, we are fooling around and not treating him as the King of our lives. If we don’t let him into one or two parts of our lives and not every part, he isn’t our King. If we look for and accept opportunities to develop our faith, our sense of purpose in life, and our service to those in need, then Jesus really is our King. 

On this feast of Christ the King, let us allow Christ to reign in our minds, our wills, our hearts and our bodies! Let us recommit ourselves to being followers of the Servant King who are committed to our mission. Let us pray. 

God our comfort and strength, in baptism we were anointed like Jesus as priest, prophet and king. May our lives bear witness to our belief in him, in our love and service, especially to the poor and those on the margins, imitating Christ, our King, who lives and reigns now and for all eternity. Amen. 

Happy feast, everyone! Viva Cristo Rey!

Rev. Mr. Peter J. McCourt
President, Cristo Rey Richmond High School

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