A Groundbreaking Celebration

A Groundbreaking Celebration

On Tuesday, November 21st we held a groundbreaking ceremony to celebrate the start of construction on our new school campus. Below is our president and founder John R. McConnell’s address to the more than 300 guests.


I want you to imagine that you are standing exactly where you are now, but it’s 100 years ago – November of 1917.  You would be standing in the middle of a busy factory.  A factory that makes tricycles.  Mecky Velo-King tricycles.  The factory would be loud and dirty but the mood in the air would be upbeat and positive because lots of tricycles would be moving out onto the shipping dock and off into Philadelphia homes for Christmas.

Now, turn your clock forward and image that you are standing here in February of 2019 – about 16 months from now.  You are standing in our dining hall.  The space is busy with students eating healthy food in a clean, safe and friendly environment.  Once again, the mood is upbeat and positive because Christmas is just around the corner and news of college acceptances keeps everyone lively and hopeful.

 Now, come back to today. There are about 300 of us here today.  Four hundred more students and faculty are watching a live-stream of this event at our current school in Logan.  And many of our families and our Work-Study Partners are live streaming from home or from work. 

 So, we have a really big crowd watching us today.  But why?  What’s the big deal?

 We are building a beautiful new campus.  That’s for sure.  But something else is happening here at 1717 Allegheny Ave. that’s much bigger than a new campus.

The Cristo Rey community loves this city.  We are bullish about Philadelphia’s future.  We also love the children in this city and we understand their enormous potential to do good for themselves and for our entire community.

But, today, 40% of our brothers and sisters in this city are caught in the trap of poverty. Philadelphia will never realize its own potential to be a great city if we don’t solve the problem of poverty.  Poverty destroys human potential on a grand scale.   Poverty divides us.  Living amidst the injustice of poverty dehumanizes all of us.

 Cristo Rey is a nuclear weapon in the war against poverty.  It is not our mission to make poverty more tolerable.  Our mission is to eliminate poverty.  We are a proven, reliable and permanent escape from the trap of generational poverty.  We offer a top quality college prep education and four years of work experience in Philadelphia’s best companies.

 We are the school that works.  Cristo Rey Philadelphia is 6 years old and we have two classes of graduates.  100% of our graduates were accepted into to a four-year college … and 92% of them are enrolled in college today.

 Cristo Rey is the school that works because we are much more than a little school in North Philadelphia.  We are a large and powerful partnership of leaders in Philadelphia … all focused on one mission … and that mission is the success of the students.

  • We are 490 students and their families who come from all over Philadelphia … and even some from Camden and Delaware County and Montgomery County.

  •  We are 75 hard working, tough loving faculty and staff.

  • We are 90 of Philadelphia’s finest professional organizations including Comcast, Independence Blue Cross, FMC, accounting firms, law firms, hospitals, and non-profits.

  • We are hundreds of Philadelphia’s most generous philanthropists (including the granddaddies of them all – The Maguire Foundation and the Connelly Foundation).

  • We are university partners including Temple, Penn State, Drexel, Villanova, St. Joe's and others

  • We are feeder school partners including Global Leadership Academy, The Independence Mission Schools, Gesu, La Salle Academy and others.

  • We are one of 32 Cristo Rey schools that serve over 11,000 students across the USA.

  • We are elected officials who do more than just talk – but actually use their influence to make good things happen for the people in the neighborhoods.

  • We are the Tioga community through our partnership with Tioga United and their great leader, Verna Tyner.

  • And of course, we are the godsons and goddaughters of Bobby Williams who was a community leader in this Tioga neighborhood for most of his 82 years until he left us two weeks ago.  But I know that Bobby is also live streaming us right now from heaven in his Cristo Rey hoodie and he is loving what he sees here today.

So, let me finish this portion with a message to the students:  I want all of you students to remember who’s here today and why they came.  They are here because they love you and they believe in you.  They are eager to invest in your future because they believe that your future is the future of our city.  They expect that you will become leaders.  And, they expect that, when you do, you will love and serve others just like they love and serve you now.


Now we are going to talk about money.

This new campus is going to cost about $37 million.  That’s the land, buildings, fields, parking, lawyers, everything – all in.  And we want to raise $3 million more to begin an endowment.

$40 million … to build a permanent home for the school that works.

The good news is that we have already raised $33 million.  Where did that come from?

  • $5 million from The Maguire Foundation
  • $2 million from The Connelly Foundation
  • $5 million from our generous Board of Trustees
  •  Incredible support from our closest friends and supporters

The Maguire Foundation helped us to start the school in 2012 and, since then, they have provided scholarships to many of our students at Cristo Rey and now more scholarships when they go to college.  More than a year ago the Maguire Foundation gave us the gift of $5 million to launch this campaign.

Their gift is why we are all here today.  It’s why I am confident that we will finish this $40 million campaign successfully.  It’s why we will call this (soon to be beautiful) place- Cristo Rey Philadelphia at the Maguire Campus.

At Cristo Rey we like to dream big dreams. The Maguire Foundation makes our dreams come true. 

So we have about $7.0 million yet to raise in order to reach our goal of $40.  We need help from all of you to finish.  There are plenty of ways to help and all of you can help.  If you are willing to help – in any way – please call us.  If you don’t call us, don’t be surprised when we call you.


We look forward to sharing updates on the capital project through this page. Together, we are Building a Home for the School That Works!