Cristo Rey St. Martin College Prep unveiled plans today to renovate and move to the former, now vacant, Kmart building in Waukegan in early 2018. Phase One of the renovation plan calls for an initial $17 million renovation to include transforming the facility for use as a modern educational campus.
“This is a milestone occasion for us as we formally embark on our Cornerstone Campaign,” said Preston Kendall, president of Cristo Rey St. Martin. “Five years ago almost to the date, Cristo Rey St. Martin College Prep embarked on a bold and daring plan to grow enrollment from 240 to over 400. We knew that our current, leased location would never be able to accommodate the larger enrollment so part of our plan included identifying and acquiring a new home. We call our plan the ‘Cornerstone Campaign’ after Psalm 118: ‘The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.’ This building before us, rejected and vacant for the last four-and-a-half years,will become the cornerstone for our new campus. Today, it is my privilege to announce that CRSM has 403 students and is here for the young people of Waukegan and North Chicago and we are here to stay!”
“Through the initial generosity of a small number of visionary investors, many of whom are here today, we are happy to report we have firm commitments for 75 percent of the funds needed for our initial Phase One of the campaign,” said Kendall. He added that the school is in discussions with several additional generous supporters.
About 50 community and school leaders and supporters of the school gathered in the parking lot of the K-mart Monday morning, underscoring the bold statement on a banner across the belly of the building: “Future Home of Cristo Rey St. Martin.” The group included Chris Perry, Board Chair, Fr.John Foley, SJ, founder and Chair Emeritus of the Cristo Rey Network, Waukegan City Clerk Marie LaCour, Waukegan Alderman Ann Taylor. Bishop George Rassas, founder of CRSM, Rev. Tom R. von Behren, Provincial of the Viatorians, supporting community for CRSM, the Sinsinawa Dominican Sisters, a supporting community, and representatives of College Bound Opportunities.
“We want to extend a wonderful welcome,” said Waukegan Alderman Taylor.”You are not just educating students, you are building better people, faith-based people who are already giving back to the community.”
Edith Lopez Trejo, mother of CRSM graduate Sebastian who is a sophomore at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland, and current freshman, Jose, told those gathered: “It is because of the level of academics and dedication to the students that Sebastian is where he is now, there’s no doubt in my mind. People in this area are always speaking negatively about the level of education that is to be had in both Waukegan and North Chicago, but Cristo Rey’s new facilities shows that our kids deserve to be recognized for their abilities. We are here to compete head-to-head with kids from more affluent areas and to go to top colleges and universities.”
Junior Daira, whose parents moved to Waukegan from Mexico, will be the first person in her family to attend college. She said: “I know that in this new building students will continue to be challenged. I hope that our education takes us beyond the old building we are in now and that all of us remember where we came from and the generosity of those who made all of this possible.”
“I stand here today representing 10,000 students at 32 Cristo Rey schools across the country,” said Fr. Foley. “It is hard to believe that just 20 years ago we were opening our first school. And Cristo Rey St. Martin is not just any school, it is a model for best practices in our Network. It has the highest retention rate (90 percent) for all our schools and an impressive 94 percent acceptance rate to four-year college.”
Phase One includes:
• An initial build-out of half the building, roughly 50,000 square feet, to house 21 classrooms, a cafeteria, a library commons area, as well as administrative office space.
• Among the classrooms will be three science labs to support the biology, chemistry and physics curriculum.
• A 21st Century educational environment that supports the school’s college preparatory focus of the curriculum.
Future phases are still in development but are expected to include additional classrooms and laboratory space, new areas for expanded programming such as fine arts and other electives, a chapel/ prayer room, student fitness space, exterior green spaces and practice fields, and a more appealing façade to the exterior of the building.
Currently, CRSM serves 400 students and is located in leased space at the former St. Joseph Parish complex, a small two-acre property comprised of less than 30,000 square feet on the south side of Waukegan. Students travel outside, year-round, between five different buildings throughout the school day to attend classes.
“Today is just the beginning,” said Kendall. “We need more help to finalize Phase One and even more help beyond that to complete the full vision of our Cornerstone Campaign. Thank all of you for what you have done to get this far and thank you in advance for all these good people who will join us in believing in our students’ abilities and who will demonstrate their belief by bringing CRSM to a new home.”
Plans are also being celebrated at our main fundraising event, Elevate, Oct. 22, 2016, at VenueOne North Shore in Deerfield.