The structure of Catholic schools improves achievement by providing multiple opportunities for face-to-face interaction, the development of meaningful relationships between students, teachers, and other members of the school community, and a shared set of beliefs among all school members (Bryk, Lee, & Holland, 1993). Despite a substantiating body of research for this assertion, few empirical studies exist on how the religious program might impact the intrapersonal and interpersonal development of students. The Cristo Rey Network (CRN) of schools was developed in response to the material realities of students and families living in Chicago (Kearney, 2006). The leaders of the network, motivated by Catholic social teachings that recognize and prioritize the poor, developed the corporate work-study Catholic school model to make the Catholic school experience accessible for low-income families. This ethnographic study explored the impact of the CRN on the religious program of St. Peter High School (pseudonym) and, in turn, how the religious program used the lived experiences of Latino and African American students. Findings point to a need for teachers at CRN schools to be aware of students’ cultural and social identity and to develop an appropriate pedagogical response in religious spaces to strengthen students’ academic, social, and spiritual identities.



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