"We're starting a new high school in Detroit and I need help setting up a few computers for our staff. Can you help us out?"
Four and a half-years ago that question did not seem life-changing. As a recently-married college graduate, I was just happy to find work in Southeast Michigan.
At the time the school had not yet opened. The start-up staff and volunteers were working out of a single office on the east side as they worked to find a building for the school. And recruit teachers. And business partners. And a freshman class.
Thanks to the tireless efforts of many others, August 2008 saw Detroit Cristo Rey High School open. I'm still not entirely sure how they cleaned and painted the building, set up the classrooms and opened on time. I remember dozens and dozens of volunteers spent hundreds (thousands?) of hours in the building just to get it ready for the first day.
The first freshman class took a risk, buying into a vision and a dream that had not fully taken shape. One member of that first freshman class was heading out of his house to drop off his application at another school when he happened to see a television news piece about Detroit Cristo Rey opening in the fall. On a whim, he and his mother decided to drop off an application.
For the past four years, our students have worked hard to finish high school. They are in class until 4:00 p.m. four days each week. Once each week they go to work at a local business or institution, which helps pay most of the cost of a private college-preparatory tuition. Many of them go to work at other jobs after school and on the weekends too, meaning they are working extra-hard to finish their school work each day. Our slogan, "the school that works," applies in many different ways.
Four years later, 100 percent of our seniors have been accepted into college. 100 percent. That student who decided to apply after seeing Detroit Cristo Rey on the news? He's going to the University of Michigan in the fall.
The Class of 2012 bought into the vision of what Detroit Cristo Rey High School would become. They took a risk by signing up for a Catholic, college-preparatory high school that had not even opened yet. They put their trust in the faculty and staff of the school. And they worked harder than they had before.
And you know what? It works.