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August 13, 2008 > Good news for Dominicans and ICA

Good news for Dominicans and ICA

Submitted By Patricia Cavagnaro

It was a red letter day for San Francisco's Immaculate Conception Academy on July 15. On that day the Dominican Sisters of Mission San Jose, sponsors of the 125-year-old catholic high school for girls in the city's Mission District, received the exciting news that ICA has been accepted as an associate member of the Cristo Rey Network of Schools.

"This is a proud day for ICA and the Dominican Sisters!" exclaimed Sister Gloria Marie Jones, Congregational Prioress. "We believe all that the Cristo Rey Network stands for strongly resonates with our Dominican commitment to catholic education. We are confident that our participation will benefit our students and their families, the city of San Francisco as well as the Network itself."

A Cristo Rey high school provides students with a unique corporate internship program by which businesses employ the young adult in entry-level positions and, in turn, the salary becomes a substantial portion of the student's tuition. Participants attend classes four days a week (a somewhat lengthened school day) and work five days a month. Through this partnership between school and business, students benefit from acquiring valuable job skills, growing in self-confidence and realizing the real-world application of their learning while completing a rigorous course of college-preparatory studies.

This is a first for San Francisco. There are two other California catholic high schools - Sacramento and Los Angeles - that are currently in the National Cristo Rey Network of 19 schools. ICA holds the unique distinction of being the first all-girls' school in the network. In this coming academic year, Immaculate Conception Academy will transition by completing certain benchmarks in readiness for full incorporation into the Cristo Rey Network slated for the 2009-2010 school year.

"One benefit of becoming a Cristo Rey School is the value of being part of a supportive network that shares our mission: to provide a quality, college-prep high school experience for young women who otherwise might not have the option of a Catholic education," said Sister Mary Virginia Leach, a graduate of ICA, '68, and newly named president of the academy. "This was the vision of our foundress, Mother Maria Pia Backes, first principal, who opened the doors of ICA in 1883. Partnering with the corporate world to make a difference for the future is exciting!"

Alum and member of ICA's Board of Directors, Sally Mahoney gave leadership to the feasibility study for membership in the Cristo Rey Network.

"Families we talked with were quick to see the educational opportunity of work site learning carefully integrated with their academic courses," she said. "They saw for their daughters an expanded perspective about the varieties of work made possible by education, heightened aspiration caused by the interest of business professionals in their progress, and sharpened focus on the importance of the school work at hand.

"Parents saw an enriched Catholic college preparatory experience they might be able to afford," Miss Mahoney continued. "They were excited and appreciative."

"Participation in the Cristo Rey Network will enhance and strengthen ICA by aligning us with a broad network of affiliated schools with their respective talents and resources," said Chairman of the Board of Directors of Immaculate Conception Academy Stephen Lanctot. "The establishment of the unique work-study program will provide our students with invaluable experiences and life lessons that will heighten their sense of self confidence."

Jeff Thielman, vice president for New Initiatives of the Cristo Rey Network, said recently, "We are ecstatic that the Dominican Sisters of Mission San Jose and Immaculate Conception Academy will be joining our Cristo Rey Network next year. We have been looking for a school in the San Francisco Bay Area, and we're excited that it is ICA."

Immaculate Conception Academy is located at 3625 24th St. in San Francisco. For more information about Immaculate Conception Academy, contact Patricia Cavagnaro at or call 415-824-2052, ext. 31.

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