By Rebecca Twitchell
In Lawrence, MA, big things happen and all with the grace of our Good God. In the city, an imposing brick building invites students up the stairway bearing the name: Notre Dame Cristo Rey (NDCR). Founded and transformed by the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur (SNDdeN), this stairway raises up each day hundreds of high school students into an “education for life.” Every evening, the students find a space on the stairs for respite, as they wait for rides home and discuss workday experiences in their Corporate Work Study Program (CWSP). For almost 15 years, 660 graduates have flown with excited feet down this stairway, whispering “goodbye” for the last time as they are now prepared for college. These students, facing economic challenges at home, know that affording a Catholic, college preparatory education is only possible, at this school entrance.
The NDCR community shows God’s incredible plan for each person. Amazing individuals, almost 1,000 minds and hearts, over the years, have been responsible for teaching, guiding and loving the students. From arrival to their graduation, teachers help them to attain their fullest potential. Beloved principals, like Peg Downing, recently deceased, give direction to each student. Teachers offer the best in their field of studies. Committed custodians maintain the building and grounds in a beautiful environment for learning. The dedication of SNDdeN, faculty, staff, CWSP partners, and donors has strengthened NDCR today in an extraordinary fulfillment of students, with much hope for the future.
A passionate community has many success stories:
Gina, Holy Cross College graduate serves in the Dominican Republic, in Princeton University’s dream project;
Emilio, once homeless, after studies at Georgetown University works at Instagram;
Nelly, completing a four-year scholarship, now getting an MEd at Boston University;
Narline, finishing degrees, now is an Associate Attorney in a Lawrence Law Office
These students belong to 660 alumnae/alumni; 62% have graduated from college compared to a national average of only 9% within their same demographic (Hispanic/Latino). Students succeed and prove the NDCR priority for their future life.
“Working for Our Future,” the theme chosen by the 275 NDCR students currently enrolled, energizes the students, so different from other schools in Lawrence. Our school does not offer competitive programs and many sports, sought by young adults. However, our students know that CWSP allows them to earn 60% of their tuition. They realize that space at the school limits many programs, but “being different” from typical high schools, students demonstrate daily their gratitude for what they have. They answer in love: “We are a family at NDCR.” Seven core values dominate a rigorous academic environment and workplace performance: Unity, Goodness of God, Education for Life, Integrity, Respect, Community and Family. Students thrive in being in united with their classmates. Clubs and sports teams include students at all grade levels so that the school can support financially and use creatively the limited space on the grounds. Students of all ages have a great respect for one another. They listen to each other’s ideas, work together to plan as a team and admire each other. No other student body resembles this unity.
Students love their caring President of NDCR, Sr. Maryalyce Gilfeather, SNDdeN.
The Sisters who opened the doors of NDCR in 2004 had no idea where this new endeavor would take them. Their commitment to St. Julie’s belief that “education is the greatest work on earth” is more than evident in the hallways. With this SNDdeN leadership, families know that their children are in loving hands and are already on the road to success. Parents have an assurance that these teenagers, becoming college ready, have ultimately an opportunity to move out of a cycle of poverty. Students stand under the Notre Dame Cristo Rey banner. They are home and yet continuing an educational journey leading to hope and opportunity for life.