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UMass president Meehan to address first Cristo Rey symposium

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BOSTON -- Martin Meehan, president of the University of Massachusetts System and a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives will be the inaugural speaking at the first annual Distinguished Speaker symposium sponsored by Cristo Rey High School.

The free, public lecture will be held at the Seaport Hotel in Boston at 9:00 a.m. on Nov. 10. Meehan will give a talk entitled "Transforming Higher Education in the Commonwealth."

Cristo Rey High School, located in Dorchester, is part of the Cristo Rey nationwide network of inner-city schools that serve students who live around the poverty line. Under the Cristo Rey model, about one day a week, rather than attending class, students work at a local corporation to gain experience and build discipline and a strong work ethic. The money they earn from these jobs goes directly to the school to offset the cost of tuition.

"Every student who is at our school is required to work five days a month for 40 hours at an organization or business across greater Boston that's a partner of ours," said Zach Frank, marketing coordinator at Cristo Rey High, told The Pilot in a Nov. 2 phone interview.

"In working there, they gain professional skills and they meet successful adult mentors to network with, and they also earn education costs because those companies are paying our school. It's a great way to empower youths," he said.

Frank said that despite the challenges many Cristo Rey students face in their family or economic situations, 100 percent of graduating seniors over the last six years have been accepted to four-year colleges or universities.

He also noted that, of the 75 students that graduated this past May, 18 currently attend University of Massachusetts schools.

Frank said he hopes many will be present at the symposium to see their university president deliver his talk, which he expects will focus on how education is the "most successful tool for social mobility and breaking cycles of poverty for low-income students."

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