Last week the News Sun, Chicago Tribune, Daily Herald and WBBM Radio ran stories about a recent Waukegan City Council meeting where our zoning request was approved to turn the vacant Waukegan Kmart into the future home of Cristo Rey St. Martin. We weren’t trying to get any coverage – we couldn’t have gotten that much press if we tried! It’s funny what the news chooses to cover and when. I don’t think I will ever understand it.
It’s no secret that we are under contract to purchase the Kmart and hope to repurpose it into a first-rate school building for our students. However, that good news is tempered by the fact that we need to raise money for the project. Our best projections indicate at least two-and-a-half to three years of fundraising will be necessary before we can start construction and make the move. Of course, miracles can happen. We could move sooner if we raise capital faster than planned but we certainly can’t (and won’t) count our chickens before they are hatched.
For a high school student, three years is an eternity. Think of it this way, if we do not experience any delays and move into the Kmart in the summer of 2018, none of the students with us today will be at CRSM – our current freshmen are the Class of 2018. They will have graduated before the move. The excitement for them is knowing that they are contributing to their school’s success, building the foundation of achievement that will allow us to afford a new campus – a new campus they will never enjoy as students. At CRSM we are always preaching about being “persons for others.” Our students are living it. They are the best reminder for me that a school is not bricks and mortar; a school is the community of people who gather each day to learn and bring out the best in one another.
Anyone who has been to our campus marvels at our students’ success. Leaky ceilings, rickety floors, fickle radiators and unpredictable plumbing are symptomatic of old and weary facilities. The physical situation in no way reflects the bright, vibrant, gritty, determined and hopeful attitude of our young people. I often joke that CRSM is proof that real learning is about the relationships between teachers and students because that is all we really have! Teachers, students, staff, job supervisors, donors… you are the REAL Cristo Rey St. Martin. It is easy to get swept up in fundraising and construction plans but we can’t let them obscure what is most important – the interactions between good, loving human beings who want to make the world a better place.
That’s CRSM and that is what we are ALL about. I am reminded of three alumni who serve as great reminders of this fact. One CRSM alum who graduated from Marquette University last June was accepted into Teach For America this year and is working with low-income teens in an urban high school in Milwaukee. He says that our Principal, Mike Odiotti inspired him and now, he inspires us.
An alumna finishing up her BA at Georgetown is joining the Peace Corps and will be leaving this Fall for two years working in Guatemala. Not only are the Peace Corps increasingly selective, once she was admitted, she purposely chose Guatemala for its intense humanitarian needs amid growing poverty and violence.
Last, a CRSM alumna who will graduate Swarthmore College in a couple months was recently named a Thomas Watson Fellow. Her successful proposal, “Daughter of Women: Chronicling Our Survival,” will take her across the world to listen to stories of survival in various contexts that resonate for and inspire her.
Here is a quote from her on the Watson Web site: “While many might see the topic of ‘survival’ as imbued with hopelessness, for me survival is embedded with possibility,” she says. “Women’s survival stories propel me forward and remind me of the incredible potential that lies within all of us.”
She will live among migrant women trying to create new homes for their families in Spain, Dominican women who survived domestic and intimate partner violence, self-employed Peruvian women who work in Lima’s outdoor markets, Argentinian women using feminism on the ground to resist paternalistic politics, and indigenous women leading environmental justice and human rights movements in Canada.
Regardless of where we hold classes or in what buildings we gather, the real Cristo Rey St. Martin is found in the hearts and minds and dreams of our students. How can we be anything but inspired and invigorated by them, using their God-given talents for the benefit of others? They are CRSM. They are who we hope every CRSM student will be. They are reminders of “the incredible potential that lies in all of us.” They are the good news, the truly Good News that all the media should be covering.
Preston Kendall, President, Cristo Rey St. Martin