In the beginning of February, on a community impact visit in Denver, I found myself sitting in a conference room with another fellow listening to Father Timothy McMahon, the president of Arrupe Jesuit High School, describe the school’s philosophy. Almost three weeks later, I have been unable to remove his words from the forefront of my mind.
“We’re educating men and women for others,” said Father McMahon.
Men and women for others. What a concept.
Arrupe Jesuit High School opened in 2003, modeled after Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Chicago. It is a part of a 24-school network of institutions across the country aimed at providing a thorough and comprehensive college-preparatory secondary education to economically disadvantaged students. Now in its tenth year, Arrupe Jesuit High School in Denver is proud to say that it is accomplishing both positive and tangible results. In May 2011, Arrupe Jesuit graduated its fifth class of seniors, and for the fifth year in a row, 100 percent of graduating seniors were accepted into at least one college or university of their choice. Current enrollment is 330 students, and projected enrollment for the 2012 to 2013 school year is 345.
The cost of educating a student at Arrupe Jesuit is approximately $10,000 per year. However, most of the families with students at Arrupe Jesuit can only contribute about a tenth of that cost. The school covers the remaining cost through fundraising and a unique corporate partners work-study program that covers about $5,000 per student.
Throughout the Denver area, there are 106 local businesses, largely in the healthcare and legal fields, that employ Arrupe Jesuit students. For $21,000, a company can become a corporate partner, and, in return, four Arrupe Jesuit students work at that company, one day a week per student, with Mondays alternating between the four. These four students together fill the spot of one full-time, entry-level clerical or administrative employee. The partner not only gets a bargain on the cost of a full-time employee, but actually helps build a stronger community by investing in the next generation of citizens. The students have a stake in their education because they have to earn a portion of their school tuition, and they gain real-world experience in a professional environment.
Nearly two years ago, El Pomar’s Trustees made a $10,000 grant to the school in support of its last capital campaign. As a second-year who is preparing for life after the Fellowship and looking to go into education, I was grateful for the opportunity to learn about such a unique school model, but the visit provided me with so much more. In the midst of job searching and apartment hunting in a new city, hearing Father McMahon speak with conviction about his commitment to educating men and women for others offered me a gentle reminder of the soul-deep convictions I have regarding the purpose of my life.
It may not take a village to raise a child, but it does take a village to fund and build a school system to educate future leaders, to take control of a political system stalled by partisanship, to find ways to sustain our resources for future generations, to coach soccer teams, and to organize PTA meetings. It takes all of us striving for more than individual merit. Doing something more with our degrees and careers than earning a living and instead making a better life for others.
So what should I and other young people do with our lives today?
I will keep in mind Father McMahon’s words and what Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. said in response to that question —“Many things, obviously. But the most daring thing is to create stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured.”