CHICAGO — Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Chicago’s Pilsen community is celebrating a remarkable achievement, defying vaccine hesitancy in a neighborhood where deaths have outpaced other parts of the city.
The school reports 100% of its students and staff are fully vaccinated.
“I’m proud of Cristo Rey for taking that measure,” one student said.
Cristo Rey High School president Antonio Ortiz says the institution asked their families to trust leadership after deciding back in May to require every student, teacher and administrator to be vaccinated for COVID-19.
“We just feel really safe and secure about the entire situation,” Raquel Analco, a student at Cristo Rey, said.
“By August, we saw almost all of our students come back. We lost maybe a handful,” Morgan Collier, executive vice president at Cristo Rey, said.
“I’m so glad to be vaccinated because I get to go to school and be with all my teachers,” Alyssa Aceves, a student at Cristo Rey, said.
James Newark directs Cristo Rey’s unique Corporate Work-Study program where students from low-income families work to pay up to 70% of their tuition. Many of Cristo Rey’s students work in hospital settings like Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood and St. Anthony’s hospital in Chicago, which helped to get students vaccinated.
“We had clinics offered here in the schoolhouse with Saint Anthony’s hospital,” Newark said.
So staying unvaccinated because of their work-study commitments is not an option for Cristo Rey students.
“Setting this example just shows everyone else no matter what age, it shows that we can all be, in a way, safer,” Analco said.
The achievement is all the more remarkable when statistics show, overall, in the Pilsen community, vaccination rates lag behind other parts of the city.