New Catholic high school focuses on underprivileged

    As the Philadelphia School District struggles with massive budget cuts, and failing schools, a group of Catholic clergy and lay people is planning to open a private high school for the poor. To be located in North Philadelphia, the school is based on a model that seeks to send all its students on to college.

    Cristo Rey schools are different from other private schools is that their students are required to spend one day a week working in corporate offices. As students’ wages help fund the school, kids have the opportunity to gain work experience.

    The first Cristo Rey school was designed by a Jesuit priest in Chicago. But school organizers in Philadelphia say it’s open to all faiths. John McConnell is the chairman of Saint Joseph’s Prep in Philadelphia. McConnell is helping to establish the school.

    “Well we know from our demographic research that families in the city really value a Catholic education whether they’re Catholic or not. But we also know that that’s becoming less and less affordable for many families in the city.”

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    McConnell says that unlike Saint Joe’s, the Cristo Rey school would be open only to the underprivileged. He anticipates a freshman class of about 100 students and says tuition will likely be no more than $2200 dollars a year.

    Organizers are still seeking funding for the school, which will be housed at a former parochial elementary school in the Olney section of Philadelphia.

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