“We will not let you fail,” says Andrew Farfsing, principal of DePaul Cristo Rey High School in Clifton. That’s the motto for the private Catholic high school that guarantees graduation and acceptance into college.

In its fifth year, DePaul Cristo Rey High School serves students from 40 zip codes across the Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky region. Founded by the Sisters of Charity, the private Catholic school attracts students from poverty-stricken households. 

The school’s board of directors, composed of one third Sisters of Charity, decided to open DePaul Cristo Rey High School, modeled after the first institution founded in Chicago in 1996 by the Jesuits. The school was the first new Catholic high school to open in Cincinnati in 50 years when students entered in 2011.

Across the United States there are 30 Cristo Rey high schools, mainly in metropolitan areas.

In 2015, the entire graduating class of 48 seniors was accepted into college. They also gained job skills in the corporate/work study program offered by more than 100 partners, such as the Cincinnati Art Museum, Cincinnati Reds and The Kroger Co. 

Graduates of the Class of 2015 are attending such colleges as Mount St. Joseph University, Wright State University and Loyola University; the Mount and Loyola are among the 24 national university partners of the Cristo Rey Network. Students will often choose schools where they are offered scholarships. DPCR’s first graduates received more than $3 million in merit-based awards from various colleges.

Many students come from Price Hill, Northside and Westwood. Others are from Over-the-Rhine, the West End, Avondale and Corryville. The ethnic background of the students is 64 percent African-American, 20 percent Caucasian, 11 percent Hispanic, 4 percent multi-racial and 1 percent Asian.

DePaul Cristo Rey serves families whose average family income is $34,337. Eighty-one percent of the students qualify for free or reduced lunch. The average amount of tuition that families pay annually ranges from $500 to $5,000, but few pay the full amount, according to Communications Director Margee Garbsch. 

Every summer a Corporate Office Readiness Enrichment program is offered. Students must attend this two-week program. Phone, dress and dining etiquette are stressed as well as hard and soft skills. Students even learn water cooler talk and elevator speeches.

Although the school is faith-based, the majority of the students are not Catholic. Some are Protestant and Muslim. However, they take religious education courses. In addition, the students learn lifelong behaviors as well as traditional reading and writing skills.

Even though the school offers traditional subjects, it encourages students to take music, drama and art in addition to such sports as softball, baseball and soccer.

Chris Mester, 17, is a senior at DePaul. From Price Hill, he recalls a Mexican festival where he looked at a brochure about the high school. He told his mother, who encouraged him to apply. Mester was attracted by the corporate work-study program and intends to enter a professional field.

“It’s a really great program,” says Mester. “I love the teachers here. I wanted to be part of something new.” He is planning a pre-med and ROTC program at college. A good student, he has taken Advanced Placement government and AP calculus. For the work-study program, he participated at Bridges for a Just Community, Cincinnati Bell, Mercy Health and Good Samaritan Hospital.