Founders’ Dinner Thanks Supporters and Raises Almost $275,000

Cristo Rey St. Martin College Prep celebrated the beginning of its second decade of educating students and thanked the community of supporters for their ongoing support at the annual Founders’ Dinner, March 7, 2015 at Exmoor Country Club in Highland Park. More than 200 guests raised almost $275,000 towards the promise of bright futures that lie ahead for students in the years to come.

“Our work and your generosity helps us provide a college prep education to young men and women whose families are struggling to make a living against a backdrop of serious financial pressures and gang violence in this northern Illinois community,” Preston Kendall, president, said. “We are in existence – and are succeeding, because of the hopes and dreams of a group of founders and visionaries – YOU, who believe all young people of promise should have the opportunity to realize their dreams.”

Those dreams that are being met, thanks to this ongoing generosity, include preliminary plans to move across Waukegan to a former Kmart and surrounding property to accommodate the fast-growing student population expected to reach more than 400 next fall. In 2014-2015, we welcomed 105 freshmen, our largest class ever.

Thanking those in attendance, Kendall said Cristo Rey has raised enough to acquire the 115,492-square-foot building, which once renovated will provide an additional 70,000 square feet of expanded learning space and a 21st Century educational environment to prepare students for college and careers.

“We are standing on the threshold of something great – a chance for Cristo Rey St. Martin to take a quantum leap in the quality of education we bring to low-income youth from Waukegan and North Chicago,” said Kendall.
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Mark Green, president of Allstate Dealer Services and Allstate Ivantage Group, the evening’s keynote speaker, described the “tremendous success” the insurance giant has experienced in hiring Cristo Rey St. Martin students as part of the school’s Corporate Work Study Program. “It is through education that we break cycles of oppression,” he said. Through the work-study program, Cristo Rey students each work five days a month at more than 80 businesses and organizations large and small, including: Allstate, and the Chicago Botanic Garden, Discover Financial, Aon Hewitt, Abbott Laboratories, Walgreen Co. This helps pay more than half of the school’s budget.

“It still seems almost unreal and very overwhelming to me when I realize that college is a dream come true for me,” said Stephane Salazar, a 2014 graduate who is a freshman at Dominican University in River Forest majoring in international business. “I thought that college, and even junior college was a stretch for me. Attending Cristo Rey St Martin changed the direction of my life. Today, at Dominican, I am majoring in international business and minoring in Spanish. I’m also volunteering with the ELS (English as a Second Language) international program with students from Brazil and Venezuela. Next year, I’m hoping to spend a semester studying abroad in Spain.”

Sponsors of the Founders’ Dinner included: Abbott Laboratories, Gelber Group, Kirkland & Ellis, Clerics of St. Viator, the Charles & Patricia Bidwill Charitable Foundation, Dave and Cindy Rosenbloom, W.W. Grainger, Walgreen Company and Steve Weiland.