Thursday, November 2, 2006

Bill Gates Helps Fund Cristo Rey Catholic High Schools in Minneapolis and Other Cities

A network of Catholic high schools for low-income students has received $6 million from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation that will help open a Minneapolis site next year. The Gates gift, announced Wednesday, will help the Jesuit-run Cristo Rey network expand from 12 to 23 schools nationally.

Cristo Rey officials previously announced they would open a school in the Phillips neighborhood of South Minneapolis at East Lake Street and Fourth Avenue South.

Students at Cristo Rey schools work five days a month at participating companies, and their earnings are signed over to the school to reduce the students' tuition by about 75 percent. "Our students must be willing to work harder to get ahead, since we are putting students in employment in order to help pay for their schooling,'' said the Rev. David Haschka, president of Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Minneapolis. "Our school day is longer, and our school year is longer.''

The Minneapolis school will open next fall for ninth-graders. One additional class will be added each year until it operates as a four-year high school by 2010-11, with an enrollment target of 500.
At least 80 percent of the school's students must be from low-income families, as determined by federal guidelines setting eligibility for free or reduced-cost lunch programs.

Cristo Rey is joining with the Urban Ventures Leadership Foundation to build a $30.5 million, three-story building in South Minneapolis. Called the Colin Powell Youth Leadership Center, the building will house both the school and Urban Ventures' youth programs.

The Gates Foundation becomes one of three major sponsors of the Cristo Rey network, patterned after a Jesuit school that opened nearly a decade ago in Chicago. The Cassin Educational Initiative Foundation pledged $12 million at the outset, and an anonymous foundation contributes to the schools' transportation costs.

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