Cristo Rey far exceeded my already high expectations.
You know something is going right when kids are running to get to the gym for the opening session of the day.
Before I continue to gush about this place, I'll sum it up for those of you in a hurry. Cristo Rey is a school that knows what it is, knows where it wants to go, and has a plan for how to get there that is centered on the success and growth of their students.
Now for specific observations.
Their work study program is interesting. The energy that Cristo Rey puts into ensuring its students have opportunities to work, invest into the school, and explore their interests is something I wish every school did effectively. What better way to get students personally invested in a school than to work in partnership with that school to improve facilities, help teach the incoming class of students, etc.? Students are also help their families by working which also gaining practical skills they may no be able to get doing other jobs a teenager would normal get.
The instruction is top notch. Granted, I was only there for part of a day, but it says something about a teacher that they are able to make a lesson about Microsoft Excel exciting to a room full of teenagers. Instead of using all the education buzzwords, I'll just say that the students were excited to be there, they were paying attention, and they got out of the lesson what the teachers intended to teach them that day.
The leadership also appears to be very strong. I've never heard Gunnar Rawlings speak to a crowd before, but not every presenter has the skill or relationship with his audience where he can convince a teenager to do an impression of a sloth for a room of peers. Why? Rawlings was giving a presentation on sloth and motivation which accidentally inspired me as well even though I wasn't the intended target. I don't inspire easy, so hats off to you young Rawlings and to the student that opened me up to being inspired because his sloth impression made me laugh.
Rawlings is also not the only leader on campus. Christine Román, the principal, clearly has the full trust and respect of her campus. While I didn't get to speak with her for an extended period of time, it is clear, by looking at and talking to the rest of the faculty, staff, and students, that she has been instrumental in creating a culture of positivity, progress, and shared leadership. You have students leading new students, teachers troubleshooting and solving their own problems, and everyone working toward a shared goal. You just don't see that on every campus, but it's beautiful when you do.
It was a short trip, but I look forward to making more. If there are things that you're curious about or want to know more about, I encourage you to go to Cristo Rey Dallas' website and try to make a visit of your own. There's only so much you can learn second hand from a blogger in his pajamas enjoying his last days before students arrive.
It was a good day at Cristo Rey.
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