Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

Photo By Michael Alexander
(L-r) Kasim Reed, Mayor of Atlanta, Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory, Bob Fitzgerald, Cristo Rey Atlanta board chair, Bill Garrett, president of Cristo Rey Atlanta, and Ileana Martinez, Cristo Rey Atlanta board member, pose for a photo holding sledgehammers. Since the building already exists, the grounding breaking took the form of wall busting to symbolize the new renovations that will take place at the future site of Cristo Rey Jesuit High School. Photo By Michael Alexander


Sledgehammers demolish a wall for the future Cristo Rey classroom

By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published September 12, 2013

ATLANTA—A new Catholic high school for economically disadvantaged students got its first renovation as civic and church leaders swung sledgehammers to demolish a wall in a future classroom.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory both hammered at a blue X taped to the wall Monday, Sept. 9, watched by uniformed students from public schools who started to imagine attending the school in the Midtown neighborhood next fall. The two men were co-chairmen of the feasibility study for the Cristo Rey Atlanta Jesuit High School.

“It is going to be an extraordinary institution. At the end of the day, cities have souls. And what I believe Cristo Rey is going to represent is the absolute best in us,” said Reed.

Archbishop Gregory said he is proud to open a Jesuit school in the city. The three-story building at 680 West Peachtree St. served for decades as the headquarters for the archdiocese until the Chancery relocated to Smyrna.

The first Cristo Rey high school opened in his native Chicago, and the archbishop said, “This is one (tradition) I am proud to bring.”

Many good efforts had to take place before they could hold a groundbreaking, and more good things will follow, he said.

“With all the good things that have gone on, and in anticipation of all the wonderful things that will go on, I am just delighted that today has dawned,” he said. “It is a happy and fortunate moment for Atlanta and for the young people.”

The high school is to open next fall. The plan is to start with 125 freshmen and add a freshman class a year until enrollment reaches 500 students. Nearly all the future students will be from financially struggling families. Nearly all will be eligible for the federal free or reduced lunch program. In contrast, just 7 percent of students in the archdiocesan school system participate in the lunch program. The new school is open to students of all denominations.

A unique feature of the school is its corporate work-study program. A student spends most of the week in the classroom. But the young person also works in an office one day each week, and sometimes two. Close to 40 businesses have agreed to host a student. It also boasts a 100 percent college admission rate for its graduates.

“It is not just the opportunity to go to a terrific school, but it’s also about finishing and then having the ceiling on your life removed,” Reed said.

Eighth-graders from KIPP South Fulton Academy, in East Point, heard from the new principal, Jesuit Father James Van Dyke, to work hard in the year ahead if they might be interested in attending Cristo Rey.

Kianti Martin aspires to be a writer. The 13-year-old said she likes what she heard about the college prep program.

“I like challenges and I like being pushed academically and character-wise,” she said.

The work-study program excites Brittany Grell, who is 13.

“That gives me experience that a lot of kids don’t have at the high school level,” said Grell, who dreams of working as a neonatal or pediatric nurse.

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