Bringing education and on-the-job skills to Richmond’s kids

February 26, 2021 | Impact Stories


In August 2019, Cristo Rey Richmond High School opened its doors to 95 students, marking the realization of a mission to provide a private-school education to students of limited economic means.

It’s the kind of environment many families in Richmond simply can’t afford. The education, which sets high school students up for success in college, is paid for mostly by corporate support and donations, which greatly reduce the tuition impact on families.

Part of a growing network of  37 schools across the U.S., Cristo Rey pairs Catholic school academic instruction in the classroom with real-life career experience in the workplace through an innovative Corporate Work Study program where students work for corporate partners as part of their education. Families and school officials say it’s this mix — rigorous academics, plus real-world, on-the-job skills — that sets the institution apart.

As the school’s president, the Rev. Mr. Peter McCourt, wrote in a Richmond Times-Dispatch column: the model promises to “change the trajectories of Richmond’s under-resourced students, families and neighborhoods forever.”

School leaders want Cristo Rey Richmond to increase its impact by growing into a fully-enrolled high school serving 350 students. It’s a goal they hope to fulfill by the fall of 2023.

Yet in order to accommodate the growth, the school needs to renovate its location at the former Benedictine College Preparatory School on Sheppard Street in Richmond’s Museum District. To realize their vision, Cristo Rey is pursuing multi-phased $12 million renovation of the facility, which the school leases from the Catholic Diocese of Richmond.


In 2020, Virginia Community Capital provided a $2 million loan to help pay for a portion of the overall project, which includes renovating the school’s prominent academic tower, major electrical upgrades, installing a new HVAC system, and completing classrooms. The school has secured pledges and donations covering the VCC loan.

The VCC loan project not only funds renovations, but allowed the school to increase capacity to a second class of 86 students in the fall of 2020. Cristo Rey has a goal to add another class of students each year as it becomes a fully enrolled high school. The inaugural class of students will graduate in June 2023.

The school, which teaches students of all faiths, has additional support from the community from numerous corporate partners. Bon Secours Mercy Ministries serves as the School’s religious sponsor.


VCC’s mission-focused loan supports the school’s own mission of providing a college-bound track and greater opportunities for a growing the number of Richmond area students from families of limited economic means. The lending team at VCC was given further confidence in the school’s strong local fundraising ties and sponsorships, pledges and support from Bon Secours Richmond Health System, and the backing of the Catholic Diocese. VCC also considered the fact that the school is part of a larger, proven network of other successful Cristo Rey schools.

“The ideal Cristo Rey Richmond student is eager to work in a professional setting and willing to work hard in the classroom,” Katie Yohe, Cristo Rey Richmond High School’s director of recruitment and admissions, tells prospective students and families. “Cristo Rey Richmond students and families are invested in learning and experiencing what students must do to be admitted to and graduate from a four-year college or university.”

Or as Tim Timmons, the school’s enrollment coordinator notes: “We are transforming the city, one student at a time.”

The United Nations created 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that aim to eradicate poverty and deprivation, grow our economies, protect our environment, and promote peace and good governance. These SDGs best align with VCC, and our mission to positively impact communities.

The Cristo Rey Richmond loan aligns with SDGs 1, 8, and 11.