More than a dream – Notre Dame Cristo Rey High School

Sister Gilfeather with two student graduates

Sister Maryalyce Gilfeather, SNDdeN with new NDCR alumni.

By Amy Hitchmoth, Director of Marketing and Communication at Notre Dame Cristo Rey.

"I believe I am fortunate to call myself a student at Notre Dame Cristo Rey High School. The opportunities our school has afforded me are almost beyond my comprehension. I love NDCR completely! We are a school that makes dreams come true!" These are the passionate words of a senior student reflecting on her time at Notre Dame Cristo Rey High School (NDCR). She will soon graduate from NDCR and become part of an alum network whose foundations have been laid over the last 20 years.

In 2004, when the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur opened the doors of NDCR in partnership with the Cristo Rey Network, they could only believe and hope that this new innovative education model would be successful. The model espouses academic excellence coupled with a Corporate Work Study Program in which students work one day a week in local companies to offset the high cost of a private, Catholic college preparatory education.

Because of the vision and courageous perseverance of the Founding President Sister Mary Murphy, SNDdeN, current President Sister Maryalyce Gilfeather, SNDdeN, the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, board of directors, faculty, staff, students, families, Corporate Work Study partners, and the continuous commitments of our generous supporters and friends, NDCR is a true testament of hope. No one could ever have imagined the incredible effect this school was destined to have on so many students and families. NDCR dared to dream a dream – we recognized the possibilities and challenges and embraced them with courage, faith, and hope.

Today, our hearts are full of gratitude for the many accomplishments NDCR has seen during these last 20 years. The IMPACT is impressive:

  • Through our Corporate Work Study Program, our young professionals have worked at over 230 companies, earned over $26 million toward their education, and ranked number one in the Cristo Rey Network for workplace performance.
  • 100 percent of NDCR graduates have been accepted into four-year colleges and universities.
  • 60 percent of NDCR graduates have successfully graduated from a four-year college or university. The class of 2017 is the highest-achieving class in this area, with a 70 percent graduation rate.

Yes, our young scholars are defying the odds! We are all aware of the statistics about low-income students and the barriers facing them in life – barriers that close doors, barriers of continuous disappointment, paralyzing fear, complex struggles, and unimaginable economic challenges! Educational research indicates that only about 15 percent of Hispanic students graduate from a four-year college among those who entered college as full-time undergraduates. However, our NDCR scholars, primarily of Latino descent from Lawrence, are rewriting those statistics.

NDCR provides each of our scholars with the opportunity to reimagine their future. A future filled with hope, possibilities, and choices! Our school changes the life trajectory of so many young people. Sometimes, we are privileged to see moments turn into milestones – and these milestones mark accomplishments so powerful and transformative that they cannot be told through statistics. These milestones can only be validated by listening to the memories remembered and shared by graduates.

Recently, at the 20th anniversary celebration for our alums, a graduate of the NDCR Class of 2011 was overcome with emotion and shared, "Years ago, I was on the wrong path, but Sister Maryalyce believed in me. She didn't have to do this, but she did! Someone who wasn't part of my family stood up for me in a way that changed my life forever. I went on to graduate from Assumption College. Sister and NDCR changed my life, and I want to have that kind of impact on others."

Another student who shared the event on his Instagram account stated, "In many ways, NDCR was a great equalizer. Despite my mom not completing her sophomore year of high school and my dad not completing his two-year degree, I found myself with a solid foundation when I entered Georgetown University. It was very inspiring for me to go back to NDCR, where it all began, where I got my first chance at defying immense odds."

These are only two of the many inspiring stories told each year. NDCR believes in and commits to supporting our young scholars "to and through college." Each NDCR student has their own unique story to tell. We are humbled and blessed to be such an intentional part of those stories! NDCR is a source of great pride and joy for all of us. Let us never forget to proclaim that NDCR is an incredible success story filled with countless miracles thanks to so many who are committed to our mission and our young scholars who are the heart of Notre Dame Cristo Rey.

We look forward to continuing our mission and vision at NDCR in the coming years f- we already see so many of our fantastic college-graduated leaders making a difference in their communities and the workforce. Our future looks bright. Viva Cristo Rey!

Amy Hitchmoth is Director of Marketing and Communication at Notre Dame Cristo Rey.

Articles in the Pilot
Read more articles from The Boston Pilot about the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur and their enduring legacy of 175 years in New England.