When retired lawyer Don Arbour received a call from the Cristo Rey Dean's office asking if he would partner with a student for help in English, he didn’t expect to become the student. “When we met, she told me she needed help in Algebra 2 and Chemistry. I did my best for two weeks, and essentially she fired me because I had no clue what I was doing."
Rather than giving up the opportunity, Don equipped himself for the task. "Every summer, I relearned a high school math course beginning with Algebra, then Geometry, Algebra 2 and Precalculus." Reflecting on his time as a student, Don states, "I enjoyed it because I realized, which I didn't know in high school, that much of math is logic which, as a lawyer, you use all the time."
Don was attracted to Cristo Rey as an alumnus of Notre Dame for undergraduate and Georgetown University for law school. "I realized how fortunate I was, knowing the Catholic high school I attended was built on years of tradition. My grandfathers, my father and his brothers, and my cousins had gone to that school. Today my entire family is invested in this school, and many schools like this have been here in the Twin Cities for over 100 years. However, Cristo Rey is relatively young, only 15 years old, and the student population doesn't have affluent parents. Many Cristo Rey parents are just scraping by, just making a living. They don't have much in the way of formal education and cannot provide the support mechanism that all the other schools that are more affluent than this school have. I realized I can contribute by giving money and time, where part of the need is."
Don recalled the busy life of a Cristo Rey student. "I was beginning to work with college counseling, and I met a young man writing his essay as part of his college application. He said, 'I'm just 18 years old. I haven't done anything and don't know what to write about.' I asked him to tell me about an average day. He gets up at 4:30 AM because he has to drive his mother to her job at 5:30, 20 miles away. He comes back for his two sisters to get them breakfast and into the school bus since his dad is already off to work. Then it's school and after-school clubs where he is a robotics team member. On Fridays, he has 20 minutes to get from school to Burger King, where he has a shift till midnight. Then he has an 8-hour shift on Saturday and an 8-hour shift on Sunday. And he thought there was nothing unusual about this. It was just part of his regular life."
Observing students graduate and go to college gives Don hope that his efforts will have a larger impact over time. "I think Cristo Rey offers an avenue to a brighter future. This year we have about 100+ graduates. Now, a hundred students a year will not affect that gap too much, but we're working our 10th year, and we will have 1000 graduates by the end of this year. If you project that into another ten years, we'll have 2000 graduates. If that continues, imagine the impact that will make."
To volunteer as a Cristo Rey tutor, contact the Volunteer Coordinator Sister Mary Willette SSND at 612-545-9797. Or complete our volunteer form here.