Proud Aunts and Uncles

Proud Aunts and Uncles

By Jay Devine

cristo rey
Photo Credit: The Philadelphia Inquirer

Reading through my social media newsfeed tells me it is graduation time. Photo upon photo shows proud parents, siblings and friends, and happy graduates in their caps and gowns prominently displaying their diplomas. But, one high school graduation is particularly significant for many of us here at D+P. It is a special school that we had a small hand in helping to get started more than five years ago.

I will never forget my first meeting with John McConnell, now president of Cristo Rey Philadelphia High School. We had a lot in common but had never met. We go to the same church. We live in the same town. His sons went to the same high school that I attended. John was even chair of the board of that high school. We were introduced through a mutual friend who thought that D+P might be interested in helping John realize a dream.

And, what a dream it was. John wanted to start a new college preparatory high school with rigorous academic standards for students with little ability to pay. In fact, in order to be considered for admission, all the students’ families or guardians had to have limited financial resources. My first question was how are you going to pay for it all? John had the answer. He was bringing to Philadelphia the Cristo Rey High School concept – a national model through which students have work-study jobs one day a week with companies, law firms and other organizations, and in exchange these organizations pay a large part of the student’s tuition. Next, I asked where will the school be located? John had that answer, too. He would lease and rehab a former Catholic elementary school in North Philadelphia. In fact, John had answers to every question. His years as a Deloitte consultant helped him organize and anticipate; his passion for what “could be” for these students inspired so many to help, including me. When he asked me if we would partner with him to help get the word out so that work-study partners could start signing up to sponsor these students, I was so impressed by the concept, the planning and John himself that I enthusiastically said yes.

Now, five years later, 80 Cristo Rey Philadelphia High School graduates – the very first graduating class – proudly walked the aisle of Tom Gola Arena at LaSalle University on June 3 to receive their diplomas. Together, this graduating class received 555 college acceptances, $9,387,060 in scholarship aid, and 39 graduates will have 100% of their college education covered, including room and board. All of this spells opportunity for a group of students and families who previously couldn’t even dream of a college education. John realized his dream so that so many others could realize theirs.

D+P could not be more proud to have helped. Congratulations to John McConnell, the dedicated faculty and staff, the companies who sponsored a student but most of all to the graduates and their families. At D+P, while we are not quite proud parents, we definitely feel like proud “aunts” and “uncles”!

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Jay Devine

Jay Devine