The common word that we use to describe the students of Cristo Rey Boston is “resiliency.” Our students work at corporate jobs five days a month. They wake up early, just like their parents, ready to meet expectations in corporate America that their peers won’t even understand until after college. Young men and women come to us an average of a year-and-a-half to two years below grade level, and yet by senior year every student takes at least one Advanced Placement course, and our seniors achieve SAT scores that are competitive with the top high schools in Boston.
When it comes to sports at Cristo Rey Boston, “resiliency” takes on a new meaning.
At our school, a student’s work day is sacred. Our students work real jobs, and they cannot miss work for any reason, including a game or practice. In fact, if a student is sick, she or he has to make up the lost day by the end of the marking period. At other schools, students are dismissed from their last class early in order to play an away game, but at Cristo Rey Boston students learn that work in the real world doesn’t stop for sports.
When a coach signs on to work for us, we make it clear that academics and work are our priorities. The goal of our sports program is that everyone plays, and everyone learns the game. Coaching is certainly not easy if a quarter of your team misses practice because of work, but that tells you the kind of coaches we hire. Coaches are inspired by our students, and they are oddly attracted to coaching under somewhat unorthodox conditions.
One of the first things we had to do when we moved to Savin Hill was to find somewhere to play our athletic games. Our first year in Dorchester saw the girls’ volleyball team practicing at a nearby beach. Boys and girls basketball practiced at a rented facility near the Charles/MGH T stop. Neither of these sports had a single home game for our first year in Dorchester, but our students never lost their enthusiasm for the game. They were dedicated to their sport and to their school, and they responded to adult coaches who they knew cared about them and their success. In game after game, they were scrappy, and they never quit.
The girls’ volleyball team now has a home court (indoors) at nearby Blessed Mother Theresa gym. Last year’s practices at the beach motivated the team to win several early sets on their new home court, igniting enthusiasm among the student body for our female athletes. Basketball now plays in the state-of-the-art Kroc Center, a college-style court that is the envy of every visiting team. Boys Varsity fell just shy of making the tournament this year, a great improvement from last year’s one-win season.
We have determined student-athletes in soccer, baseball, track, and we are about to start a lacrosse team. Boys’ soccer, which now plays home games on Sunday afternoons at Boston College High School, made the playoffs this year, and one of our students, Stephen Lopez, was the Most Valuable Player of the Catholic Central League. Our student athletes love playing together. They learn to work hard, to win humbly, and to make no excuses in defeat. These traits will serve them well in life.
If you happen to see a Cristo Rey Boston home game, you will witness young men and women giving the game their all. They may not win every game, but the resiliency skills they are developing will keep them moving forward for the rest of their lives.