For Good: Private school for underprivileged to open in Tampa in 2016

Lower income, inner city youth in the Tampa Bay region will have another option for private education as Cristo Rey High School gets ready to open in 2016. The private school, whose model exists in several other cities around the country, will open its doors to students grades 9 through 12, in an effort to give them the best education possible.

“The Cristo Rey model offers a rigorous academic program,” says Jim Madden, feasibility study coordinator for Cristo Rey. “We also see a high graduation rate among our students, but more importantly seniors who graduate from the program have over a 97-percent college acceptance rate.”

In order to qualify for the program, Madden explains that students and their families must be at or below the federal poverty definition, and the student must be at least two years behind in school.

In addition to the scrupulous academic program, Cristo Rey also offers students an opportunity to get a taste of the job world.

“Five days a month the students will go out and work in a white-collar job at a number of companies in the area,” Madden says. “The money that gets earned by the student gets put towards their tuition.”

As for tuition, Cristo Rey is funded through fundraising campaigns and private donors. Richard Gonzmart, president and CEO of Columbia Restaurant Corporation, donated $10,000 back in April to help get the program started, and has pledged a total of $100,000 to the program.

“Cristo Rey requires that you fundraise or have pledges in the amount of $2.5 million dollars, plus whatever it costs to renovate the facility in order to get approval,” Madden says.

Just this past week, Cristo Rey Tampa received that approval.

A total of 27 corporate work partners have pledged jobs, including Columbia Restaurant Corporation. Madden says families are also expected to pay $500 a month in tuition in order to help fund their child’s education.

“I spent 36 years in the Pinellas County school system, and one of the things that is so important is to increase the graduation rate,” Madden says. “If you look at the graduation rate of certain demographics compared to those in Cristo Rey, you will see that the model works.”

Cristo Rey Tampa will open its doors August 2016, and will be located at the campus of Mary Help of Christians Center situated at 6400 East Chelsea Street in Tampa.

For more information, or to donate to the cause, visit the Cristo Rey website

Read more articles by Kimberly Patterson.

Kimberly Patterson is a news editor for 83 Degrees Media in the Tampa Bay region of Florida.
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