Fairfield University hosts first Cristo Rey Network summer residential program to offer underserved students holistic preparation for college


From July 6 to 12, Fairfield University will host its inaugural residential college exploration and planning program serving Cristo Rey schools, a network of schools that are mainly Jesuit and serve inner city students. It will be attended by many young people who hope to become the first in their families to attend college.

The 25 students - some will be first in their families to graduate from high school - are coming from communities across the country. They attend Cristo Rey high schools, which provide young people, who may be considered underprivileged or underserved, with a college preparatory school level of education. The average family income of students attending Cristo Rey schools is $33,700. Students work one day each week at local businesses as part of their curriculum, and businesses in turn help pay for their tuition.

They will live on campus for the week, exploring academic and campus life, and get a practical, step-by-step primer on the college admission process. Another main tenet concerns spirituality. Elliott Gualtiere, director of campus ministry at Fairfield Prep, will explore a number of Jesuit ideologies including Magis, cura personalis, and being men and women for others. The program will ultimately enable these students to learn how college is a realistic option in their lives. Workshops will include discussion about financial aid and scholarships, for instance.

The program speaks to Fairfield's mission of sharing its resources with the community, in this case students with limited options, and is an avenue for partnering with the Jesuits who teach at Cristo Rey schools to develop a bridge to college for students. William H. Johnson, associate director of admission for diversity and director of student diversity programs, said, "This initiative is an example of our Jesuit obligation to the community beyond Fairfield - whether the community be near or afar... We want to instill an added sense of confidence in these students about who they are, where they are going, and what they can accomplish with the determination."

Over the course of the program, students will be asked to reflect daily on what they have experienced and learned. Each student will create his or her own statement, addressing the educational commitment he or she promises to make during senior year and beyond.

Trips to an array of colleges and universities in Connecticut and Massachusetts are planned. "They will get different perspectives of college life," said Nakia Noble, Fairfield's assistant director of admission and coordinator for multicultural recruitment "They will visit Yale and Southern Connecticut State Universities as well as Boston College and Emerson College."

Workshops and activities will offer valuable resources and suggestions to assist in navigating the college selection process. Representatives from Fairfield as well as other local colleges and universities will offer advice on essay writing and interviewing. Johnson noted, "During the program, we plan to stress finding the purpose for your collegiate experience. Our hope is to get these students thinking a bit more holistically about their college selection and to buck sensationalized trends on the ‘best' or most popular schools to attend."

In order to get a taste for college academic life, students will take a class taught by Olivia Harriott, Ph. D., associate professor of biology at Fairfield. Fairfield professors from various academic departments also will be available to speak to students. During their stay, students will be introduced to the 'people of Fairfield' - those individuals responsible for the many services available to University students. They include Catherine Borgman, director of career planning, and Fred Kuo, associate director of student activities and facilities. The long-term goal is to extend the program to four weeks and provide students with an opportunity to complete a college course during their stay, organizers said.

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Media Contact: Meg McCaffrey, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2726, mmccaffrey@fairfield.edu

Posted on July 2, 2008

Vol. 40, No. 296