The halls are freshly painted in bright colors and adorned with works of art. The floor tile has been stripped and the original wood floors have been restored. And the three science labs have been installed and are fully stocked.
This is the scene at 100 Savin Hill Ave. in Dorchester at the new home of Cristo Rey Boston High School, formerly known as North Cambridge Catholic High School.
Seven years ago, the school became a member of the Cristo Rey Network, a national association of 24 high schools that provide a Catholic college prep program. The school relocated from Cambridge to the former site of the St. William School building in the Savin Hill neighborhood this summer in response to the school’s growing student population, as well as its desire to be closer to the majority of its students.
Cristo Rey Boston High School now enrolls 273 students, 70 percent of whom are Boston residents, and expects to increase that number to more than 400 students in the next four years.
According to school President Jeff Thielman, the transition from one school to the other has gone very well. With an additional 15,000 square feet, approximately $1.5 million in renovations made to the new site and the proximity to the Red Line, “I think the faculty and staff aren’t looking back,” he said.
Neither are the students.
Dorchester resident Sinclair Fashaw-Braxton said, “It’s definitely easier to get to. I like the community … so far no problems.”
Fashaw-Braxton admits that he was both nervous and excited for the start of the school year. “[I was] excited because we have a bigger building, better facility and greater opportunity,” he said.
Regardless of name and location changes, the mission remains the same. “Our goal is to form young people of faith, service and purpose,” Thielman said.
A college culture is created at Cristo Rey Boston from the moment a student enters the admissions process. “If you work hard, you’re going to go to college,” Thielman added.
Many of Cristo Rey Boston’s students come into their freshman year a grade below level academically. The school’s rigorous academic program consists of double blocks, 100 minutes of instruction, of math and language arts for all ninth-graders every academic day. To prepare its students more adequately, ninth-graders must also pass monthly proficiency exams in math and language arts to advance to their sophomore year. Remediation and tutoring is available for every student if need be.
A signature component of the curriculum at Cristo Rey Boston High School is its Corporate Work Study Program. Every student works five full days per month at an entry-level job to earn money that goes toward paying tuition and gaining professional experience in the workplace.
Cristo Rey Boston High School has more than 90 Corporate Work Study sponsors, a few of which include: Boston Medical Center, Citizens Bank, Deloitte, New England Aquarium and The TJX Companies, Inc.
Fashaw-Braxton was placed at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP in the records department his freshman year. Now a senior, Fashaw-Braxton said, “I’m glad I found PricewaterhouseCoopers because it was right on the line of what I wanted to do and who I wanted to be.”
He has learned to conduct himself as a young business professional. A firm handshake, eye contact and patience are all essential skills to learn in a business environment, and not only has Fashaw-Braxton transformed into a young business professional, but he has also become a mentor to the younger Cristo Rey Boston students who also work at PricewaterhouseCoopers.
Last year’s graduating class achieved a 100 percent acceptance rate to four-year colleges. A college education is definitely in Fashaw-Braxton’s future. He plans to attend college next fall and is now contemplating a career in business or law, due in large part to his positive experience at PricewaterhouseCoopers.
“Our kids are around all these people that have degrees,” Thielman said. As a result of these work placements, the students realize that their goals are attainable and “they’re more motivated to do work in school,” he added.