The Philadelphia Citizen: Meet the Problem Solver

Michael Gomez, Principal of Cristo Rey Philadelphia High, on the North Philly school’s innovative model

It wasn’t a (real life) teacher who originally inspired Michael Gomez to teach. Or a particular class. Or even his passion to help children learn.

It was Robin Williams—or at least John Keating, the character he plays in Dead Poets Society.

“In that movie, I saw that a teacher could bring language and literature to life,” says Gomez, who is now principal of Cristo Rey Philadelphia High School, a Catholic school in North Philadelphia. “Keating taught with passion and exuberance and got his students to feel the same. I wanted to do just that.”

Cristo Rey Philadelphia serves low income students of all faiths with a unique model: Four days a week, students engage in a college-prep curriculum on campus. The fifth day, they work at local businesses to gain real-world experience. Four students share the duties of one full-time entry-level employee at companies such as Comcast, Independence Blue Cross and The Philadelphia Zoo. The wages earned cover approximately 60 percent of each student’s school tuition.

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