By Yadira Betances
---- — LAWRENCE — The congregational leader of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur came to see firsthand how $10 million in donations have helped Notre Dame Cristo Rey High School students succeed in the past 10 years.
Sister Teresita Weind learned that 100 percent of all 320 Notre Dame graduates over that time have been accepted to college, and more than 100 business partners hire students for its corporate work-study program allowing families to pay only 10 percent of what it costs to attend the school. Students are from Lawrence and surrounding communities.
“This is a moment of pride and a moment of celebration,” said Weind guest speaker at the President’s Circle reception at the Andover Country Club on Nov. 6. “Education is our primary focus and it’s amazing to know that another school is having great success.”
Sister Weind, who traveled from Rome, attended a student assembly that morning.
“Being with them helped me put more flesh into Cristo Rey,” she said. “Education is the way out of poverty, openness to a world larger than this.”
Sister Mary Murphy, Notre Dame Cristo Rey High School president and founder, said the Sisters of Notre Dame were invited by Cristo Rey Network in 2001 to open a school in Lawrence “to empower students with college prep classes and a work-study program. The school opened in 2004 with 80 students.
“The dream of offering hope for the city of Lawrence came true,” Sister Murphy said.
“Having Sister Teresita with us to share in our gratitude to our donors is so very pertinent to our mission,” Sister Murphy said. “Her ministry, leadership and appreciation for the generosity of others is highly revered at Notre Dame Cristo Rey High School. She is an inspiration to us all.”
Student speaker was Robert Flete, who graduated from Notre Dame in 2009. He attended the reception with his fiance, Nami Morales, who graduated from the school in 2010 and his boss, Kurt Wicks, of the Wicks Insurance Group of Allstate Insurance Company in North Andover.
Flete said Notre Dame not only prepared him for college, but for his career in insurance.
At Notre Dame he learned how to tie a tie, speak eloquently, write a resume as a freshmen and was writing 10-page papers as an underclassmen and up to 40-page essays by his senior year.
“I couldn’t have done it without them. They helped me pave the way and I was trained to succeed,” said Flete, the first member of his family to graduate from high school. He went on to Northern Essex Community College where he received an associate degree in criminal justice and is pursuing a bachelor’s degree also in criminal justice from University of Massachusetts, Lowell.
Wicks donated $6,750 which would sponsor a student.
“I wanted to support Robert who loves the school and loves Lawrence,” he said.
Nami Morales worked at Stoneham Savings Bank as a student at Notre Dame and is still employed there after graduating from Salem State University.
Morales said she could not have gotten the job without the training she received at the school.
“Notre Dame means home. Any time I visit, there is someone there to hold my hand when I need it,” Morales said.
Notre Dame board member Ted Gaffney agreed, thanking donors.
“Thank you for being committed to Catholic education and believing firmly in what Catholic education provides to its students,” Gaffney said. “Keep doing what you’re doing. It is having a huge impact educationally, giving them a sense of fulfillment, accomplishment and pride is really incredible and nothing less than awe inspiring to see.”