June 10, 2011

Cristo Rey graduates reflect on their unique high school experience

Brittnee Vaughn and Terry Majors said that their four years at Providence Cristo Rey High School in Indianapolis prepared them well for college and the future. (Photo by John Shaughnessy)

Brittnee Vaughn and Terry Majors said that their four years at Providence Cristo Rey High School in Indianapolis prepared them well for college and the future. (Photo by John Shaughnessy)

By John Shaughnessy

It was a day of celebration, a time to mark the grand opening of a different kind of Catholic high school in Indianapolis.

On that day in August of 2007, religious leaders, community leaders and school leaders raved about the promise of Providence Cristo Rey High School—a school for children from economically challenged families that combines a college preparatory curriculum with a work-study program.

The approach will change the lives of its students and give them the opportunity to have a promising future, school supporters said.

In the midst of that grand celebration, I interviewed—and took photos for The Criterion—two of the freshmen who were part of that inaugural class. As Terry Majors and Brittnee Vaughn stood together, their eyes and their expressions reflected a mix of excitement, nervousness and uncertainty.

They were the kind of looks that are typical of freshmen during the first days of high school. They were also the looks of young people who had essentially signed up to take a leap of faith at a new school with a new approach.

As Brittnee and Terry prepared to graduate from Providence Cristo Rey High School on June 8, I met with them again to see where they have landed nearly four years after their leap of faith.

Here are their thoughts and their memories of their high school experience.

‘I just thank God for the opportunities’

Terry Majors takes his time as he considers the questions about the best parts and the toughest parts of his four years at Providence Cristo Rey High School.

Best parts?

“When I became captain of the basketball team,” he says. “That showed me that people were willing to put trust in me.

“Another time was when I gave one of my first speaking engagements at the Marriott hotel downtown. There were all these people who donated money to the school. I remember getting up there and telling a joke to start it off. When I look back now, I think of the confidence I had to do that.”

Toughest parts?

“Junior year was a lot of work. It was very challenging. The toughest part was sticking it out. But as much work as they gave you, they also showed that they do care. This is a school where I feel appreciated. I value that.”

Terry is one of the 25 graduates of the Class of 2011 of Providence Cristo Rey High School. Ninety-six percent of the graduates will attend college, according to school officials. The class has also earned more than $2.2 million in merit scholarships.

Terry will attend Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Ind. He plans to major in political science with the hope of becoming a lawyer in the future. His work-study experience has included working at a law firm.

“What I like about the law is that you fight for people’s rights,” says Terry, one of six children in his family. “In order to fulfill your purpose in life, you have to put yourself in a position to help others.”

He believes he has received that support at the school, which is sponsored by the Sisters of Providence. He also says his four years at Providence Cristo Rey High School have made him ready for his future.

“Before this, I’ve never been part of a class that has been so close to one another and has been there for one another,” he says. “As I’m graduating, I just thank God for the opportunities I’ve had here.”

To put God first, to do the right thing

When Brittnee Vaughn was in the eighth grade, she became the first student to be admitted to Providence Cristo Rey High School.

“I really liked the whole concept of the school,” she says. “I liked the working part.”

The work-study program at Providence Cristo Rey High School helps the students pay for 60 percent of their tuition. It also paves the way for students to consider future careers.

In her four years, Brittnee has worked at three science-based companies in Indianapolis—AIT Laboratories, Eli Lilly and Company, and Roche Diagnostics. She was so interested in seeing an autopsy that the president of AIT Laboratories arranged for her to watch one. Those experiences lead to her college plan to study forensic science at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.

“I’ll be going for five years, and I’ll get a master’s degree,” says Brittnee, who has a cumulative grade point average of 3.5 on a scale of 4.0.

Known as a student who always makes the most of her opportunities, she was honored in 2010 with the school’s Providence Award. The award honors the student who “lives” the school pledge “to put God first and to strive always to do the right thing; to uphold the values, standards and ethics of Providence Cristo Rey High School.”

One of her favorite school experiences was the senior retreat.

“Just the fact that it was us seniors,” says Brittnee, the oldest of four children in her family. “We all got the chance to be close and bond with each other.”

As graduation nears, she says her senior class is “ready to move on to something new.” But there’s also a sense of appreciation for their four years at their school.

“It opened a lot of doors for me that I probably wouldn’t have had someplace else,” she said. “I feel I’ve had a lot of advantages by going to Providence Cristo Rey.” †

Related story: School principal hopes graduates use gifts and talents to make a positive difference

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