2024 Annual Board Chair Recap

Jun 17, 2024 | Cougar Chronicles

I hope this letter finds you and your loved ones well and enjoying the relaxed pace of summertime. Summer is such a welcome season for many of us – warm weather, vacations, and weekends spent enjoying the outdoors with friends and family. And for students and teachers everywhere, it is a deserved break from a long school year of focus and hard work. At Cristo Rey Columbus (CRC), we enjoyed another successful year of academic excellence, professional development, and spiritual growth.

On June 1, we celebrated the Commencement of the Class of 2024 (pictured right), the eighth graduating class in our school’s history. This class holds a very unique position in history. Their eighth grade year ended at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, and they began their time at CRC in uncertainty, as the world continued to navigate the ongoing health crisis. They cycled through at-home and hybrid learning, and missed out on a year of professional work-study exposure, a quintessential part of the CRC experience. They faced challenges that no class before them faced.

It would have been easy for them to quit, disengage, give half efforts, or throw in the towel. But they did NOT do that! They met the challenges that faced them, accepted them, and conquered them. They worked hard to leave their mark on our school, supported each other, and ultimately thrived. This year’s Commencement Speaker, Congresswoman Joyce Beatty, perfectly captured the spirit of the Class of 2024 in her speech: “When people tell you it’s hard or it’s impossible, then you tell them that’s why hurdles were made to jump over. Tell them that you have the blueprints for success within you.” The Class of 2024 proved that they are not to be counted out, and we are so proud of them.

I want to give special recognition to Valedictorian, Mahkei, and Salutatorian, Rita (pictured left with classmate Iceyy), for their outstanding achievements. Both held leadership positions in Student Council and National Honor Society and have left a lasting mark on our school. Mahkei will be attending Washington University in St. Louis on a full-ride, four-year QuestBridge scholarship and intends to pursue Computer Engineering. Rita is headed to Wellesley College in Massachusetts where she plans to study Neuroscience and Education.

For the eighth year, the senior class achieved 100% college acceptance (pictured right), from over 130 colleges and universities across the nation. This continues a tradition of every class achieving this milestone that started with our first graduates in 2017. This accomplishment is not merely a boast or post to hang our hat on. It is a core element of who we are as a school and a major decision factor for students. Take senior class member Tiara, who shared her thoughts on the achievement. “Many of us came to CRC solely for the 100% college acceptance rate and it’s an honor to continue that legacy,” she said. “Achieving 100% college acceptance yet again this year is a sign that Cristo Rey is continuing their promise to both students and their families to provide them with a good education.”

After hosting the 10-Year Celebration last spring to recognize 10 years of CRC education, we were thrilled to bring back our annual fundraiser, The Garden Party. Hosted on May 2 at the beautiful Walter Commons at St. Charles Preparatory High School, guests were greeted by the thundering percussion of the Cristo Rey Drumline, then escorted to their tables by students eager to speak about their CRC experience. The student co-hosts, Emily ‘24, Jade ‘25, Liam ‘26, and Paris ‘25 (pictured left), did a fantastic job telling the story of our school’s journey from just an idea to becoming the remarkable institution it is today. We are thrilled that the event raised over $350,000 in support of our students and their pursuits! Thank you to everyone who attended and supported The Garden Party!

Some of you may have attended our annual Speed Chatting event in the fall at the end of Summer Business Training. This event pairs members of the community with first-year students to have one-on-one conversations, allowing the students to practice their skills before embarking on their work-study jobs. This year, we took the concept of Speed Chatting and applied it to the Senior class as they prepared to graduate and head off to college. On April 11, guests were invited to CRC for our inaugural Senior Networking Event, to catch up with the Class of 2024 and see how far they’ve come since freshman year! This event was extremely valuable for our seniors, like Jaishawn (pictured right with classmate Tiara), who appreciated being able to network with people from varying professions. “A skill I’m trying to develop is how to speak about my personal strengths in a confident way,” he said. “I often tend to sell myself short, but at the networking event, I had a comfortable environment to be able to practice speaking about myself confidently and offer up my best aspects.”

Save the Date!

Tuesday, August 13 Speed Chatting with the Class of 2028
Click here to sign up for our Speed Chatting and Senior Networking Event email list

Networking, gaining professional experience, and learning about careers is what our Professional Work-Study Program is all about, and it was another successful year for both our students and over 130 business partners! At COTA, sophomore Deandre (pictured left), excelled in his role with the Mobility Services team, which included the opportunity to tour the new LinkUs initiative via augmented reality and riding buses around town. Sophomore Jimena, a transfer student, wasted no time contributing to her team at Grange Insurance, honing her skills in Microsoft Excel and helping the sales team prepare and execute an all-company event with over 400 people. For senior Savion, his role at Ohio Auditor of State was the perfect place to stay up-to-date on news and developments in legislative work within the state and county, a huge benefit to him as he pursues his goal of becoming a congressman.

The conference championship banners that hang in the gymnasium will need some major updates this summer, as Cougar Athletics added FIVE conference championships to the growing list! In the fall, Girls Volleyball three-peated as United League champs, Girls Cross Country added their second, and Boys Cross Country earned their first championship. This spring, Boys Track & Field and Girls Track & Field (juniors Tony and Kadiatou pictured right), also added conference championship honors, with Boys earning their third overall and Girls their FOURTH consecutive! The track teams set school records in eight different categories – Girls 400 meters, Girls High Jump, and Boys 300 Hurdles, just to name a few. The Boys 4×100 relay consisting of juniors Kaleb, Michael, and Sam and freshmen Nigel made it to regional finals where they finished fourth, qualifying for States for the second year in a row. Way to go, Cougars!

Professional development among our faculty is an area where we are continuously looking for new areas of growth. In September, CRC academic leadership, Assistant Principal of Student Services Katie Laufersweiler-Hanf, Instructional Coach Kelly Rausch-Davis, Assistant Principal of Academics Shelby Fischer, Student Success Coordinator Maddy Abels, and Principal Ryan Michelle Pettit (pictured left), attended the Internal Coherence Framework conference, led by its co-authors from the Harvard School of Education, which focuses on creating the conditions for continuous improvement in schools. CRC was one of six Network schools chosen to pilot the design and implementation of an Academic Vision. Our Math Department, led by first year CRC teacher Patricia Chmielewski, traveled to Cincinnati in November and hosted the Cincinnati and Indianapolis Network schools in April for peer collaboration focused on high performance expectations, ongoing professional learning, and examining student work to result in improved math instruction. In the fall, our English Department presented at the National Council of Teachers of English and two of our teachers, Rachel Dues (9th) and Jess Colecchi (10th) will be presenting this coming fall in Boston.

A focus on student success has always been at the forefront of our work at Cristo Rey, but each year we add more tools to our toolbox. This year, two new roles were added to the Student Success department: Testing Coordinator and School Psychologist. Through her work as Testing Coordinator, Steph Perlik, formerly an English teacher and Academic Counselor at CRC, has been able to work one-on-one with our students and provide richer data to faculty on our students’ demonstrated skills and areas of growth. The presence of our School Psychologist, Dr. Emily Bumpus, has allowed us to do in-house evaluations and educational assessments as well as offer small group and individual sessions to students in need of these services. CRC was selected by the Cristo Rey Network to participate in their Standard 6 Project, which will work on deepening the partnership between academics and PWSP, something our school has been doing successfully for many years. Being selected for this project is a testament to the work already done and will allow us to continue to grow in this area.

Seniors Iceyy and Savion

The vast diversity of cultures at our school is a major point of pride. We celebrate this diversity year-round, and host several special events during national heritage months and feast days. Back in December, a special all-school Mass was held to celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe/El Dia de la Guadalupe as a school community with traditional dancers, a procession, and a special blessing from Most Reverend Bishop Earl K. Fernandes during Mass (pictured left). In February, the school continued its annual Black History Month Celebration Talent Show, held at the neighboring Columbus Metropolitan Library Main Branch, which showcased song and dance performances by the students. And last month, the annual International Night (pictured below), made its in-person return with students, staff, faculty, and guests enjoying an evening of celebrating our school’s many cultures through dancing, singing, art, and more. The night ended on an exciting note with our traditional Flag Walk!

I have a final update to share, one that is keeping us energized as we make plans for next school year. In April, CRC leadership attended the Cristo Rey Network Annual Meeting held at Cristo Rey Dallas College Prep, where it was announced that CRC will be the host school of the 2025 Annual Meeting. We are honored to be selected to host this annual gathering next spring in our wonderful city for several days of collaboration, professional development, and community with our fellow Network schools.

This letter couldn’t possibly contain all of the activities, projects, and successes that we’ve enjoyed at CRC this year. As I reflect on the school’s accomplishments, I want to take a moment to thank the people who make them all possible: the Cristo Rey Columbus faculty and staff. The dedication they have to ensuring the development and success of our students is unparalleled. The environment they have created at the school, one of joy, enrichment, and unwavering support, is inspirational. Their devotion to the Cristo Rey mission is the definition of what it means to be  servant leaders. Thank you for answering the call to serve our students – we are a better school because of all of you.

I hope that you have enjoyed this recap of our school year. We are fortunate to have a deeply caring and involved network of supporters, and we are grateful to count you among them. It is because of the support of so many that our school has become the remarkable institution it is today, and our goals and dreams for the students will only continue to grow. On behalf of the Board of Trustees, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for being a part of the Cristo Rey Columbus mission and I look forward to sharing more successes with you in the future.

With gratitude,

Mark C. Ryan, Chair
Cristo Rey Columbus High School Board of Trustees

Cristo Rey Columbus High School Board of Trustees

Mark Ryan*, Chair, BeecherHill

Deacon Tom Berg (Ex-Officio), Columbus   Catholic Diocese

Christina Brown, Huntington Bank

Samary Cecchetti, St. James the Less   Catholic School

Dr. Adam Dufault* (Ex-Officio), Columbus   Catholic Diocese

Dr. Pamela Ellis, Compass College Advisory

Most Reverend Bishop Earl K. Fernandes   (Ex-Officio), Columbus Catholic Diocese

Jill Gaby, Miami University

Sheila Nolan Gartland*, Vorys, Sater,   Seymour and Pease LLP

Virginia Hardy, Columbus City Schools   (Retired)

Dr. William Hubbard, Mount Carmel Health   System

Dr. Amy Imm, OhioHealth (Retired)

Joel Jansen, American Electric Power

Brian McCurdy*, Kimball Midwest

Marshela McDaniel, Journey Management,   McDonald’s Owner Operator 

Sarah McQuaide, Central Ohio Transit   Authority

Jason Moore*, Orka Group

Tom Poole, The Ohio State University Wexner   Medical Center

Katy Rigsby, OhioHealth

Shalini Sarna*, Grange Insurance

Nate Schott, Blue Door Talent

Erin Shannon, White Castle

Deacon Paul Zemanek, Columbus Catholic   Diocese

*Denotes Executive Committee