NEWARK, N.J. — Robert Sandoz, OFM, and Gregory Gebbia, OFM, looked on in pride as they watched 65 seniors graduate from Christ the King Prep in the school’s first commencement exercises in June.
Robert, who is president of Christ the King Preparatory School, and Gregory, dean of students, joined the alternative school for at-risk inner-city students in August 2009.
The students heard keynoter Jeff Johnson — an award-winning journalist, social activist and political commentator from Washington, D.C. — tell them: “Be willing to fail. Be strategic. Be victorious.”
Johnson urged graduates to “use every single gift you were given to do what it is the universe needs from you.” He challenged the graduates to invest in themselves. “This cap on your head, this gown on your body represents an investment you made in yourself. What will you do with that investment?”
Gratitude For This Milestone
When he conferred the final diploma, Robert thanked all who made this milestone possible, “especially the board of trustees that believed in the idea of growing a Cristo Rey school in Newark and worked hard to make it a reality.”
“Our corporate sponsors who engaged our students in their work assignments and provided these students with valuable education outside the classroom setting. Our faculty and staff who worked every day to call forth all the potential in these young women and men of promise. To all who have joined us in our mission to transform urban America one student at a time, you deserve our heart-felt respect and gratitude,” he said.
Christ the King is a Catholic, coeducational, college preparatory high school that seeks to provide a quality education for young men and women with limited resources. It is part of the Cristo Rey network of 24 schools. Sponsored by the Archdiocese of Newark and endorsed by the Sisters of Charity of Saint Elizabeth and the Marist Brothers of the Schools, it welcomes students from all faiths and cultural heritages and emphasizes a challenging core curriculum and corporate internship program.
A unique feature of the curriculum is an innovative corporate work-study program that enables students to finance the majority of the cost of their education through their own efforts, while gaining significant learning and motivational benefits.
Making a Difference
In his keynote message, Johnson encouraged the graduates to make a difference in the world. “Class of 2011, you are the legacy of those who have loved and gone before you. What you choose to do with that legacy can change the world. Congratulations!”
In addition to his diploma, one student received the Francis Medal from Holy Name Province. Otis Johnson was honored for his active concern for all people and his commitment to the environment. Veronica Ortega, academic registrar, received a medal for her clear demonstration of the love and compassion that is the heart of the school’s community.
— Wendy Healy, a freelance writer based in Connecticut, contributes frequently to HNP Today.