Just more than three blocks west of the Health Sciences Campus, sits a nearly three-acre lot, covered in dirt, dead grass and other vegetation.
But eventually it will be the site of Cristo Rey High School, a Catholic school that now stands about a 10-minute drive north of Temple Hospital Broad Street near Duncannon Avenue. Last year, it graduated its first class of students. This year, all of its seniors were accepted to college.
“I’m really stoked about it, I’m happy,” said Sheila Howard, a board member of Tioga United Inc., a nearby residential community organization. “The other thing is it is literally geared toward low-income, it’s an option … our community doesn’t have a lot of options, and this one is an excellent one.”
Admission to Cristo Rey is based on financial need, and those accepted pay most of the approximately $12,000 tuition through work-study programs. Each student participating in this program is assigned to a full-time, professional job where they work one day a week. Philadelphia businesses sponsor these full-time, professional jobs for the students.
Anna Winter, director of communications and community affairs for Cristo Rey, said the school is relocating to allow for a parking lot, a library, an athletic field and other “hallmarks of a high school.”
She said ground will be broken at 17th Street and Allegheny Avenue at some point within this year. Other than that, not much else is known.
“We own the deed and the land,” she said. “But everything in terms of architecture and similar things are preliminary.”
According to the deed, Cristo Rey bought the vacant lot from Zero Two Allegheny LLC for $1.6 million in January 2016. Winter said fundraising footed the bill.
Cristo Rey Philadelphia is one of 32 branches of the school throughout the country. The network was founded in Chicago in 1996, and more than 10,000 students attended member schools last year, earning about $44 million through work-study programs.
Howard said Tioga United has been heavily involved in the project as well as Councilwoman Cindy Bass, whose district includes the school’s new location. The project is a part of the North District Plan of Philadelphia2035, a citywide development initiative, she added.
The new spot for the school is about three blocks away from the Maurice H. Kornberg School of Dentistry. Tioga neighborhood residents were positive about the news.
Sean Jackson, 44, hopes Cristo Rey will allow low-income kids to attend.
“People who live here are below poverty [levels],” said Jackson, who lives near 20th and Westmoreland streets. “So it’s tough for us to go, but a school is always a positive thing.”
Antonio Reed, a SEPTA worker who lives near Lippincott Street and Park Avenue, said the school is a vital addition to the neighborhood.
“If it’s about learning, I’m all about it,” said Reed, 35. “As long as you’re not on the streets, it’s a good thing.”
Steve Bohnel can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @Steve_Bohnel.