Saturday, January 9, 2010

Cura Personalis - Educating the Whole

Christ the King Prep and a Field Trip for Black History Month

“You will be the first ever Senior class at Christ the King, excited?” – Me

“Possibly” – Chris

“Care to explain?” – Me

“Well, yes and no – all we do is work and study” - Chris

It is not the typical answer expected from a high school Junior, particularly when speaking for the collective whole. However, this is no ordinary prep school. I knew that from the beginning. What I didn’t know was how best I could help.

Christ the King (CTK) is unlike many high schools. It is one of only twenty-four schools in the national Cristo Rey Network, an innovative urban education model started by Jesuits in Chicago. It seeks to provide quality, catholic, college preparatory education to economically disadvantaged urban youth with limited educational options. It utilizes a longer school day and year, academic assistance, work skills boot camp and counseling to prepare students for college. The biggest difference, as echoed by the above dialogue, is these students are working for their education – quite literally. Once a week they partake in corporate internships that lower the cost of tuition by 80%. Besides learning the value of an education, the internships cement the end goal – college. Nationally, the network boasts a 96%
acceptance rate to 2 or 4 year colleges.

After my first meeting with Administrators, I realized there were many more needs then I could possibly provide. So, I reflected on my own high school experience at St Peter’s Prep and tried my best to pinpoint what was most formative. I soon realized the majority of my memories were not confined to the walls of the classroom. Instead, it was the hours after the final bell that the school came alive. Whether it was planning a pep rally with friends at Fr Hoag’s SJ School Spirit Committee meeting, waiting around for an Emmaus Retreat Homecoming or Arrupe Evening Lecture, or figuring out rides to soccer practice and what train or bus to take home – they rounded out the experience. I learned that you can’t control time, but you’d better learn to manage it. I learned that academics only scratches the surface of a school. I learned that each person has a talent and it should be used to help the greater good. These were all equal parts of an education. In short, I felt overwhelmed by what I wanted to offer the CTK students.

What could I do? At this juncture the school is unable to fund the majority of activities that they recognize as part of the Jesuit motto Cura Personalis. It is a dictum for educating the whole person including physical fitness and a broad based education (think your college “core”). In the end, people should have a working knowledge or appreciation for the sciences, history, math, literature and the arts. Administrators and faculty have been very creative to fill the void. There are chess tournaments, basketball teams, and workshops and presentations from college professors and community artists. With a mix of flexibility and drive the school succeeds despite a very tight budget.

Since the school does not have the resources. I am reaching out to my extended network to sponsor a student for a two hour trip to the Montclair Art Museum for Black History Month. My goal is to take all 86 sophomores, the only class yet to leave the school, over the span of four days. The first hour will be a tour of the exhibit “Forces of Change: African American Art and the Julius Rosenwald Fund” and the last hour will be a studio art session. With no arts program, I see this as a great opportunity to introduce the sophomores to a local museum’s historically relevant exhibit while exploring their own abilities.

I am asking for whatever amount you feel comfortable with. This is entirely pro bono on my part and the ChipIn widget deposits all money directly into the school’s PayPal Account via all 4 major credit cards and paypal.

You can give in any increments. Every dollar counts as this is the only fundraising for the trip. $15 covers the entrance fee, the supplies fee and transportation cost of one student.

Your $15 by FEB 5th = 1 Student going to the Art Museum

I’ve contributed the first $15.

I promise this will be a new experience and something very appreciated by the students. I will be following up with pictures and video responses after the February trip.

Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam
Marco Ambrosio