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Cristo Rey ready to show off renovated facility

German Village Gazette • Nate Ellis • September 16, 2014

A year after opening a Columbus school to provide new opportunities to underprivileged students, Cristo Rey Columbus High School will unveil its newly renovated facilities during a garden party fundraiser on Saturday night.

The inaugural fundraiser Sept. 20 will feature food and dancing from 7 to 10:30 p.m. at school, 400 E. Town St., Columbus.

The building, constructed in 1899, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is the former Ohio School for the Deaf.

Tours led by Cristo Rey Columbus High School students and staff will be offered so guests can view the $18 million in upgrades taking place at the school.

Additionally, a progressive cocktail party will lead attendees on a stroll through the garden paths of the high school's adjacent neighbor, the Columbus Topiary Garden.

Proceeds from the event will benefit the school, which is sponsored by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Columbus and is part of the Chicago-based Cristo Rey Network of 28 schools.

Although it's a Catholic school, it is open to students of all faiths and is designed to serve families who wouldn't normally be able to afford a private high school tuition.

"We like to say if you can afford to come into a private school, then you can't come into our school," said Jim Foley, Cristo Rey Columbus High School president Jim Foley.

"We're meant to serve low- and moderate-income families," Foley said.

"Our students come from all over town. They're not just from one neighborhood."

Foley said three-fourths of the school's students are non-Catholic; students generally pay $250 to $2,500 per year for tuition.

That scale is based on family income, but tuitions are offset, in part, by a work-study program Foley called the school's "secret sauce."

In addition to teaching college-preparatory courses, the program allows students to work five days a month at universities, hospitals, law firms and in other white-collar offices.

"The interesting thing about the work-study program is it has this amazing impact on our kids," Foley said. "They come to our school overwhelmingly from families where the parents are not college graduates.

"It has a transformative impact on their hopes and dreams," Foley said. "The work-study program allows them to learn about new professional careers that are available to them that they might not have known about.

"Additionally, it shows them the path to those professional careers involves graduation from college."

Foley, an Upper Arlington resident, left a 35-year legal career to help establish Cristo Rey Columbus High School.

Last month, the school welcomed 120 freshmen to join its 71 returning sophomores. Members of the first Cristo Rey graduating class will receive their diplomas in 2017.

Foley said across the Cristo Rey network "for the last several years," 100 percent of graduates have been accepted into at least one college or university.

He said the garden party is a chance for people to support the school's efforts, as well as to learn more about it and have fun while doing so.

In addition to the tours and walk through the topiary garden, the party will feature a performance by Columbus jazz musician Arnett Howard and a series of raffles.

One raffle prize will be a weekend trip to Chicago, which includes a visit to the Chicago Art Museum, where guests can view Georges Seurat's famous painting A Sunday Afternoon on the Isle of La Grand Jatte. The Columbus Topiary Garden is a living recreation of the painting.

Tickets to the garden party range from $125 for individuals, to a $20,000 sponsorship dubbed "The Ph.D."