Catholic School Opens in Renovated Kmart

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WAUKEGAN – Cristo Rey St. Martin College Prep, a work-study program that has provided assistance to students for over 14 years, just moved into a new state of the art campus this week. Their new school building? A renovated Kmart store.

Thanks to an $18.5 million reuse project headed by JGMA architects and the McShane Construction Company, the old Kmart store has been transformed with bright blue and green paint. Renovations turned the formerly abandoned parking lot and building  into a 120,000 square foot educational campus.

Cristo Rey St. Martin College Prep is a Catholic learning community that provides young students with opportunities to grow in their faith, find purpose, and be of service to the community. Through their Corporate Work Study Program, students spend one day a week working for more than 80 companies to prepare for their life after school.

Read more: 10 Encouraging Quotes from John Paul II to Catholic School Educators

“This is a milestone moment for us,” Preston Kendall, president of Cristo Rey St. Martin, told the Chicago Tribune. “Almost six years ago, we embarked on a bold and daring plan to grow enrollment from 240 to over 400. We have a lot of really talented young people who come from very hard-working families who need help. We believe education is the door to those opportunities.”

Cristo Rey was founded in 2004. When they first opened their doors, they had 95 students enrolled and less than 30,000 square feet to work with.

Their new campus, housed in the abandoned big-box store, includes 18 classrooms, three science labs, a cafeteria, library, and offices. The construction process is still underway, with plans for more laboratories, fine arts facilities, a gym, and a chapel in the works.

Read more: 8 Surprising Facts About Catholic Education to Know and Share

“This is a testament to their commitment to Waukegan and to the students of our city,” Mayor Sam Cunningham told the Chicago Tribune in an interview. “Selecting this long-vacant site and converting this space into this amazing campus took vision and leadership, and the city of Waukegan was with them from the beginning. We look forward to continuing our great partnership and to their continued success.”

Cristo Rey is an affordable, safe, co-educational, Catholic high school committed to academic excellence for students of limited economic means in the greater Waukegan and North Chicago area. To find out more about the mission of Cristo Rey St. Martin College Prep, visit their website.

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