Whether it’s “Draft Day” or a sporting event, the Cristo Rey Dallas College Preparatory School students and supporters always have enthusiasm, commitment and, of course, cheerleaders. Thanks to Co-Chairs Muffin Lemak and Susan Palma and Honorary Co-Chairs Mary and Mike Terry, those ingredients were on hand for the school’s fundraiser “Grow The Grove” at sixty five hundred on Friday, November 17.
Oh, why was it called “Grow the Grove”? Silly! Because the school that is located in Pleasant Grove. Here’s a report from the field:
Attendees of the 2nd annual Grow the Grove arrived to a pep-rally style welcome by Cristo Rey Dallas cheerleaders on Friday, November 17. Honorary Co-Chairs Mary and Mike Terry and Event Co-Chairs Muffin and John Lemak and Susan and Gene Palma, were joined by supporters at venue sixty five hundred for the sold-out fundraiser benefitting Cristo Rey Dallas, an innovative high school located in Pleasant Grove that offers students who would otherwise not consider private school a rigorous college prep education paired with a valuable work study program.
Once inside, partygoers mingled over wine, courtesy of Coquerel Family Wine Estates, signature cocktails, including the “ACT ace,” and light bites of wrapped apricots, Parmesan cheese tarts and crab cakes, while enjoying the sounds of the Cristo Rey student musicians under the direction of music teacher Dr. Alex Fraile.
Around the room, students showcased some of the school’s curriculum through interactive activities, including art students working on current art projects using acrylics and charcoal; a Theology Smackdown, in which students and guests, including guest participant Father Joshua Whitfield from St. Rita Catholic Church, competed with each other to get the right answer on questions that CRD students know from their theology coursework; and science demonstrations featuring an extraction of DNA from strawberries; using a universal indicator to show how dry ice goes from a base to an acid as it melts; and the use of a Van de Graaff generator to show how guest’s hair became electrified.
At that appointed time, the cheerleaders made their way through the crowd leading guests to the dining area to be seated. Co-chairs Susan and Muffin took the stage to welcome attendees and thank them for the support of this year’s Grow the Grove. They then asked everyone to hold up the Cristo Rey Rules rulers, that they had placed at each place setting, and to please repeat after them: “I promise that I will try to win the good behavior award by not disturbing my neighbors and table mates. And I will bid high on these fabulous auction items tonight.” Student Ryan Olson followed to ask everyone to join him and his fellow students, who were surrounding the stage, in prayer. Olson then welcomed guests and added his thanks for their support of Cristo Rey Dallas.
Guests including Donna Woodard, Claire and Dwight Emanuelson, Pam and Vin Perella, Christie Carter, Micki and Mayor Mike Rawlings, Mary Blake and Chuck Meadows, Shelby Wagner, Julie Hawes, Liesl and Karl Kuby, Beth and Chuck Thoele, Leisa Street, Mersina Stubbs, Ginny and Randy Bailey, Ron Corning, Jonathan Moon, Suzy and Larry Gekiere, Shelle and Michael Sills, Debbie Tolleson, Laurie-Jo and Steve Straty, Janie and David Condon and Melinda and Steve Winn enjoyed their first course of a classic wedge salad with a Texas-sized garlic crouton and buttermilk herb yogurt dressing followed by an entrée of petite filet of beef with foraged mushroom demi, mashed potatoes with garlic and herb butter and roasted rainbow of carrots and parsnips, while listening to the sounds of Billy Joel, a hint for one of the highly-anticipated live auction packages.
As a trio of desserts was served, Olson returned to introduce Cristo Rey Dallas President Kelby Woodard, who extended his gratitude to the co-chairs, honorary chairs, host committee and sponsors for helping raise a record-breaking amount from this year’s event.
He then shared with the crowd the state of the school, now in its third year with 375 students enrolled. In academics, results of the Measuring Academic Progress national standardized test had just been released with the class of 2019 having grown at four times the national average in math and reading and the class of 2020 having grown at two times the national average. Through the school’s innovative Corporate Work Study Program, where Cristo Rey students work one day per week offsite for one of 107 corporate partners, students will earn over $3.0 million towards their own education this year. Additionally they are earning strong evaluations from their supervisors, 97 percent of the time meeting or exceeding expectations, which has ranked them in the top four of all Cristo Rey schools across the nation.
He also cited that enrollment continues to increase with anticipation this year of more than 3 applications for every one spot available. And in sports, Cristo Rey students have worked hard on the track, field and the court, competing well against other local schools, including a place in the state semi-finals in soccer against Covenant School.
David Moran, chair-elect of the Cristo Rey Dallas board of directors and managing partner at Jackson Walker, a founding Corporate Work Study Program partner, followed with his firm’s experiences with the student workers through CWSP, and in closing encouraged others to consider the rewarding partnership.
The program then concluded with a panel discussion, “Protect the Dream: A Conversation” led by moderator Rhonda Hughes, a principal of Hughes Strategy, which is a boutique leadership development and communications firm. Joining Hughes onstage, Alexis Vargas, Emily Casanova-Castillo, Emmanuel Moreno and Dipaouly Shah each shared their experiences as students, how attending Cristo Rey Dallas has impacted their plans for the future and their experiences working for some of Dallas’ most prestigious companies through the work study program.
It was then time to let the bidding begin in the live auction with packages featuring a stay at a private home in Colorado; a work of art created by students using acrylic paint pens and wooden Popsicle sticks, entitled “Protect the Dream;” box seats for four to the Big 12 Championship on December 2; a private dinner for eight with Bishop Burns catered by Nick and Sam’s Grill; an earth-moving day of fun for 12 at Extreme Sandbox including cocktails and a catered barbeque following; and New York City trip including tickets to the sold out Billy Joel concert at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday, December 20, tickets to Broadway’s School of Rock including backstage tour and accommodations at the Omni Berkshire, which garnered the highest bids of the night.
The live auction concluded with an announcement of The Partnership, a group of supporters of Cristo Rey Dallas students who co-invest $3,200 each year to bridge the tuition gap that remains after students earn over 60 percent of the education at their corporate work study jobs and their parents pay tuition based on ability. With students earning the majority of the cost of their education, members of The Partnership are truly partners with the students themselves as they earn their own way. Auctioneer Wes Pool then asked for all in attendance to consider raising a paddle to support this important initiative.
As the evening came to a close, partygoers were treated to a late night snack of coffee and donuts, glazed in one of the school’s signature colors, orange.
* Photo credit: Tamytha Cameron