Cristo Rey San Diego welcomes inaugural class

by Aida Bustos

SAN DIEGO — Cristo Rey San Diego High School began to offer classes in August, the culmination of a three-year process to offer an innovative Catholic model of education to low-income families.

The 62 students in the inaugural freshman class began their classes online on Aug. 19, given the health orders in place to slow the spread of COVID-19.

The school, located in the Southcrest neighborhood of San Diego, continues to accept applications from teens who would be entering ninth grade. Tuition averages $67 per month at Cristo Rey, compared to around $1,500 per month at other local Catholic high schools.

The school, the 37th one in a network across the nation, is able to offer a college-prep education by offering a mix of classes and work experience. Each student works one day a week at a white collar job, with groups of four working at a corporation or nonprofit organization per week. The salaries they receive help pay for tuition.

The freshman class attended a virtual three-week “Summer Success Academy” where instructors taught them workplace basics, such as how to use the Microsoft Office suite and how to conduct themselves in a professional setting.

The academy ended on Aug. 21 with a festive event dubbed “Draft Day,” when groups of four students at a time found out which employer had picked them to work at their organization. Given COVID-19 restrictions, the employers introduced themselves to the students via Zoom on a big screen.

They also heard from Mickey Pimentel, who grew up in San Diego and played for the Carolina Panthers, Kansas City Chiefs and Atlanta Falcons. He told them that he once attended St. Jude Catholic School, where their school is now located, and that that positive experience changed his life.

“I don’t know where I would have ended up if I had not gone to that school,” he told them.

The next Monday, Aug. 24, the students began their classes and virtual work orientation. Starting on Aug. 31, some will be going to their job sites in school vans while others will start their work online until their employers can support them at their office location. Those participating include Scripps Mercy Hospital, Rady Children’s Hospital, Latham & Watkins, Precision Diagnostics, CBRE, American Red Cross, Midway San Diego, Casa Cornelia Law Center, Expeditors, AimLoan, Catholic Charities, Father Joe’s Villages, Junior Achievement and Diocese of San Diego.

Fourteen-year-old David Portillo, who attended St. Rita’s School, is part of the group that will be working at Scripps Hospital, which suited him just fine.

“My family picked this school because it was going to be a great opportunity for me,” he said after the Draft Day festivities.


“I want to be a gastroenterologist.”

For More Information
Cristo Rey San Diego High School continues to accept applications for its freshman class. Families, which must meet income requirements, should begin the application process as soon as possible. The school is recruiting volunteers who can provide a range of support, including after-school tutoring and driving school vans. And the school continues to seek employers who would be willing to sponsor the students, either by donating funds or hiring them to work at their offices.
More information is available at the school’s website,, or by phoning (619) 432-1899.