More than a Dream: How One School's Vision is Changing the World: The Cristo Rey Story  

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President Bush Praises Cristo Rey at Education Summit

April 24, 2008

President Bush today sang the praises of Cristo Rey and the Cristo Rey model of education at the White House Summit on Inner-City Children and Faith Based Schools. Below are outtakes from the President's speech in which he addresses Cristo Rey. You can also view the complete text of the speech.


In Chicago a group of Jesuit priests found an innovative way to finance children's education called Cristo Rey, and they convinced Chicago's businesses to become involved. It's interesting that the Jesuits took the initiative. I would hope that corporate America would also take initiative. (Laughter.) But four days of the week the children go to class and then on the fifth they report for work at some of Chicago's most prestigious firms.

The businesses get energetic, reliable workers for high-turnover jobs. The students get a top-notch education plus real work experience. They feel a sense of pride when they leave some of the city's most dangerous neighborhoods for the city's tallest skyscrapers. It's a program that is working, and many of the students take that same sense of pride and accomplishment to higher education.

It's interesting to note that Cristo Rey is now involved in 19 cities. In other words, good ideas can take hold. The job of this conference is to provide a kind of go-by for people who share a sense of concern about our nation's future. And hopefully from this summit good ideas will be spawning other good ideas -- at the federal level and the state and local level, at the corporate level, and then of course at the citizen level.

And so I'm -- let me end with a story here about Yadira Vieyra. Yadira says she goes to Georgetown University, and she said -- I was asking if Yadira was going to be here so I could ask her to stand here in a minute, and a fellow told me she's a little worried about missing class. So whoever Yadira's teacher is, please blame it on me, not her. (Laughter.)

She is a -- she was born in Mexico -- Mexicana. And they moved to Chicago, probably to try to realize a better life -- I'm confident, to try to realize a better life. Mom and dad had a dream to give their family hope. There's no more hopeful place in the world, by the way, than the United States of America. We shouldn't be surprised when people come to America for a hopeful life. That's what America has been and should be. (Applause.)

And then we shouldn't be surprised when the parents hope that their children get a great education, because there's nothing more hopeful for a parent than to know their child is receiving a good education. Well, that's what Yadira's folks wanted for her. So when the time came -- time for her to go to high school came, they wanted something better than a low-performing high school. You know, one of the interesting things about the accountability system -- a lot of people think that their child goes to the finest school ever, until the results get posted. (Laughter.)

And it's -- the whole purpose, by the way, is not to embarrass anybody, it's not to scold anybody. The whole purpose is to achieve excellence for every person. And so Yadira's parents I'm sure took a look at the school system and said, there's a better way. And so, guess what, she went to Cristo Rey, the program I just described to you. And she was challenged by the school's rigorous academics.

If you set low standards, guess what you're going to get? Low results. If you believe in every child's worth and every child can learn, it's important to set high standards and challenge the children, and that's what happened in the school she went to. She was inspired by great teachers. She said she was motivated by the school's amazing job program. And she is now at Georgetown University, one of the great schools -- universities in America. And guess what she wants to do when she leaves Georgetown? She wants to enroll in Notre Dame's ACE program. Yadira, thanks for coming. (Applause.)

You either just got an A -- (laughter) -- or an F. (Laughter.) Either case, we're glad you're here -- (laughter) -- and I love your example. And the reason why it's important to have examples -- so that we get beyond the rhetoric and realize that we're dealing with the human potential. Someday no telling what Yadira's going to be in life, but one thing is for certain: it's going to be a productive citizen, and America will be better for it. And so we're glad you're here. Thank you for your spirit. Tell your parents, thank you. (Applause.)