Alumni Joshua Ruiz '19 becomes student teacher.
A member of the first graduating class at CRJ, Joshua Ruiz is currently in his junior year at Marquette University. His pursuit of becoming a teacher has brought him back to his alma mater. Ruiz is student teaching this spring with History teacher Aaron Hess, and it only makes sense that the place that inspired him to become a teacher is where he is getting his first chance in the classroom.

My CRJ experience with my teachers definitely planted a seed in my mind with the idea of being an educator. I had amazing teachers at CRJ. I was able to connect with my teachers on many levels - from academics to conversations about things outside of school. CRJ is also where I fell in love with history. By the end of my Senior year, I decided on my track for secondary education and my major in history,” said Ruiz.
When Aaron Hess found out that he would be working with Joshua this semester, it brought on multiple feelings for the teacher. “It made me feel old - he was just a freshman when I was teaching him! Seriously though - it was surreal. You always wonder what becomes of the students that you teach. Knowing that Joshua is thriving and is pursuing his passion gives me a sense of satisfaction that is hard to put into words.” It was also a unique experience for Ruiz. “It's amazing that I used to be the one sitting in the class and now I’m at the front of the classroom and actually teaching students now.”
The experience of working together has been beneficial for both Ruiz and Hess. Joshua said, “Working with Mr. Hess has been an honor and a privilege. In these past 6 weeks I have learned so much from just watching him teach and interact with the students. It's crazy that he was my freshman year history teacher, and now I am one year away from being a teacher like him. I am learning new stuff from him every day that I will implement into my own teaching style.”
Hess shared, “Already having a relationship with Joshua made the experience easier right off the bat. Beyond that, Joshua has been attentive, consistent, curious, and professional - all the qualities I look for in a student teacher. Knowing that he started here gives me a tremendous amount of pride in my organization.
Hess also feels that seeing Ruiz leading the class will have an impact on this current class of students. “First, it shows that teaching is a viable career for them. Second, I think it helps to promote buy-in and pride in our school. Joshua is one of them. Current students know him from when he coached volleyball and some of their siblings were in his class. He is a model for what we consider success - matriculating through college. This experience connects every part of our mission tangibly.”
My bracket is busted! It's that time of year when college basketball fans around the country try to predict who will win and how far they'll go in the NCAA Tournament. Of course, I am always drawn back to the unpredictability and drama that comes with close games, memorable upsets, and the compelling storylines that make the accuracy of my annual predictions elusive. Last week, presidents and principals from Jesuit schools in the Midwest met in Indianapolis, and we were fortunate to have the opportunity to attend an NCAA Tournament game. The game featured the perennial powerhouse and number 2 seeded Kentucky Wildcats versus the 15th seeded St. Peter's Peacocks, a small Jesuit school in Jersey City, New Jersey.

As the teams took the floor, the outward differences couldn't be more apparent. Prior to the Wildcats taking the court, the Kentucky cheer squad appeared running in formation on the court each holding a flag with a large letter sequenced to spell KENTUCKY. Then, the band began to play a medley of songs to increase the crowd's volume in the stadium, announcing the Wildcat basketball team entrance. The entourage of assistant coaches, trainers, and the team took the court for their pre-game warm-ups as the Kentucky fans cheered with admiration and excitement. Then, it was St. Peter's turn to take the court. Out came the coaching staff and then players to begin their pre-game warm up. Only a person dressed as a peacock mascot took the floor in an effort to stir the handful of St. Peter's fans in support of their team. The cheering by the St. Peter's faithful was quickly drowned out by the large numbers of Wildcat fans that filled the stadium. Most had the storyline of a Kentucky victory written in their minds before the game began. However, St. Peter's proved to be a good match for Kentucky. To the shock of the entire stadium, St. Peter's took Kentucky to overtime and won the game!  

Watching that game, I was reminded of our Cristo Rey Jesuit students through the characteristics St. Peter's exhibited to pull off the upset win. To win the basketball game, St. Peter's players had to have heart, or a strong belief that they were just as worthy of stepping onto the basketball court as the Kentucky team they played. When our students walk into a professional office environment as part of our Corporate Work Study Program or their classroom at school, they exhibit strength, courage, and a belief that what we are asking them is absolutely possible with hard work and perseverance.

Secondly, St. Peter's won because they executed basic fundamentals of basketball really well, particularly on defense. At Cristo Rey Jesuit, we focus on the fundamental values, beliefs, and attitudes with our students. From the time we begin our Summer Bridge program with our incoming students, we practice shaking hands, greeting others, looking others in the eye, small talk with adults, and reinforce the importance of asking questions among other fundamental skills and behaviors students should know before going into the workplace. In addition, our work with the Rush NeuroBehavioral Center has helped students improve their executive functioning skills by focusing on how to prioritize tasks and assignments to more effectively meet deadlines.

Lastly, the St. Peter's basketball team was competing for more than a win. They were competing on behalf of their entire college community. Similarly, our students, as first generation college bound students, often mention their family members as motivation and inspiration for them to achieve great accomplishments. Cristo Rey Jesuit students' journeys mean much more than a high school diploma. Students are keenly aware that they carry the hopes and dreams of family members before them who've sacrificed so that they could have the opportunities they have today. 

While St. Peter's has earned a spot amongst the final sixteen teams, it is clear that they are already champions regardless of the outcome of their next game. They have totally upended my bracket predictions...just like our students will for those who underestimate their future potential.
Sophomores Genesis, Becky and Jasmine initiated a music club at CRJ.
Wishing they had more time to play their instruments, three trailblazing students set out to establish a new music club at CRJ. Without a formal band class currently being offered, Sophomores Genesis, Jasmine and Becky wanted to create a place for musicians to build their skills and learn about various musical genres. The girls approached faculty member Andrew Plewa for help in getting the program up and running. “I wrote up a quick overview of how I would run the club with input from the three students. The club would include musical instruments for students to learn and play, as well as a space to learn and appreciate new genres. The girls recruited other classmates to sign up and now 18 students receive daily musical experiences,” said Plewa.
Plewa and other staff members donated instruments and amplifiers for students to use. The music club explores the students' favorite artists and songs as well as traces the roots of various musical genres. Plewa added, “We also have a creative space to learn, not only how to play new instruments, but how they fit with each other. No matter their level of knowledge or ability, each student will leave the semester with a greater understanding and appreciation for all musical forms.”
The launch of the music club has been so successful that there's the possibility of a second music club being created to meet the demand next fall. Genesis said, We are glad that students in CRJ love and have a passion for learning an instrument and music overall. We have great joy that there is now a space for these students to make music, get a bit of practice time, and collaborate.” The music club is currently accepting donations to be able to provide instruments and supplies for the quickly growing music program. Contact Samantha Young to learn more.
CRJ students celebrate the completion of "Songs for a New World", directed by Theatre teacher Abigail Seefeld.
The black box theater was filled with music during the winter production of “Songs for a New World”. Senior Nashley has always had a passion for performing arts, and sees her experiences in theater translating to success and confidence in class presentations. “Being in this production helped my self esteem and gave me confidence in the classroom. Because of the theater program, I have the confidence to present in public and talk to a large group.
According to Art teacher Samantha Wolf, all forms of art requires and encourages the creative thinking process. “Here at CRJ, we are pleased to offer at least one fine arts class available at every grade level. The arts programs provide a voice to those who have trouble finding their own. Our Jesuit tradition encourages us to see God in all things. Our arts program has allowed students to spark discussion about complicated topics such as inequity, injustice, and personal struggles expressed through ways that bring them joy. There are many opportunities for students to express the creativity which overflows from their minds and hearts.”
On Thursday, March 10th, two partners of Cristo Rey Jesuit were honored at the Archbishop's Catholic Schools Dinner: Kathleen Cepelka, Ph.D. and Mike Giffhorn.

Dr. Cepelka received the St. John the Evangelist Award for her 53 years of service to Catholic education. We thank her for CRJ board service and being a tireless champion of Catholic education in Milwaukee benefiting a generation of students.

Mike Giffhorn received the Elizabeth Ann Seton Award. Mike has been a member of the Cristo Rey Jesuit Governance Board for six years and has been a blessing to the CRJ community through his generosity and commitment to enriching the lives of students.

Congratulations to Kathleen and Mike on their well earned and deserved honors, and thank you for being part of the Cristo Rey Jesuit community.
Have you considered making an Individual Retirement Account (“IRA”) gift a part of your charitable estate plan? If you haven't, you may want to. There may be considerable advantages for donating retirement assets to a charity like Cristo Rey Jesuit in your estate plan rather than passing it to your heirs. Heirs, unlike charities, will be required to pay taxes on the amount transferred, reducing the amount received. CRJ and other charities received the full amount, tax-free, to further their mission and increase impact in the community. 

If you plan to include charitable gifts in your estate plans, CRJ would be honored to be included as one of your beneficiaries of your retirement assets. To learn more about how your estate gift can transform the education and lives of CRJ students contact Shannon Watry at or at 414-436-4600.
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