Article brought to you by: Catholic Online (

UST Alumni Foster College Prep at Cristo Rey Jesuit

By Bridget Hardy, University of St. Thomas
November 7th, 2012
University of St. Thomas (

University of St. Thomas alumni are educating leaders of faith and character in Catholic schools across the Houston. Eight UST graduates work at Cristo Rey Jesuit College Preparatory School of Houston as teachers and administrators, leading high school students in a variety of areas and guiding them to pursue higher education. 

Justin Aquila '10 said his experience at UST was instrumental in developing his desire to teach.

"The theological formation at UST is first-rate and I enjoy passing the fruits of my education onto my students here at Cristo Rey Jesuit," Aquila said.

Cristo Rey Jesuit, a Catholic high school, advocates personal responsibility through academics and work-study for students of all faiths from financially-challenged families. Susan Martin, director of Communications and Public Relations at Cristo Rey Jesuit, has been with the school from its start as a volunteer program to a school in newly-renovated facilities.

"Cristo Rey Jesuit offers an out-of-the-box alternative for students from economically-disadvantaged families who want a college-prep education but can\'t afford one," Martin said. "The school\'s rigorous curriculum combined with the corporate work-study program will get the students in to college while allowing them to pay for close to 70 percent of the cost of their high school education."

Every student is required to work one day a week at entry-level jobs with approved corporations across Houston, including UST. Martin said students are learning what it takes to be successful in a professional environment.

"They are able to re-envision their futures by setting their goals higher than they ever imagined," Martin said. "It has been amazing to watch this transformation."

UST alumni share stories and fond memories of St. Thomas with their students and urge them to strive for success. Ivan Earls '13 treasures his education and said it was integral in helping him choose his career.  

"My time at St. Thomas helped give me the experience and tools to be a successful teacher," Earls said. "I remember seeing the passion of my professors and feeling inspired to become an educator myself."

The St. Thomas alumni working at Cristo Rey Jesuit are examples for students to succeed. The alumni working at Cristo Rey Jesuit are:

Greg Adragna
Adragna will graduate from St. Thomas in December with his Master of Education degree. He is from New Orleans, La., and is in his fourth year at Cristo Rey Jesuit. Adragna teaches 10th grade chemistry and 11th grade earth and space science.
Justin Aquila
Aquila graduated in 2010 with a Master of Arts in Theological Studies. He is from Rochester, N.Y., and is in his first year at Cristo Rey Jesuit. He teaches 11th and 12th grade theology.
Ivan Earls
Earls earned his bachelor's degree in theology and history in 2011 and will achieve his Master of Education in May 2013. From Pearland, Texas, Earls is in his second year at Cristo Rey Jesuit. He teaches ninth grade theology.
David Garcia-Prats
Garcia-Prats will graduate in December with a Master in Educational Leadership. From Southwest Houston, he has been with Cristo Rey Jesuit since its start in 2009. Garcia-Prats is the Dean of Academics.
Flirtisha Harris
Harris will graduate from UST in 2013 with a Master in Educational Leadership, which she completed online. From Calvert County, Md., and now living in Pearland, Harris is in her fourth year at Cristo Rey Jesuit. She teaches ninth and 10th grade college and career readiness.
Julie Ortiz
Ortiz graduated in 2010 with a bachelor's degree in theology. She lives in Southeast Houston and is in her first year at Cristo Rey Jesuit. She teaches ninth and 10th grade theology.
Alexandra Snodgrass
Snodgrass graduated in 2012 with a bachelor's degree in mathematics. From Baytown, Texas, Snodgrass is in her first year at Cristo Rey Jesuit. She teaches 9th grade algebra I and 12th grade advanced quantitative reasoning.
Maricela Varela

Varela graduated in 2007 with her bachelor's degree in psychology and philosophy. Living in Southeast Houston, she is in her first year at Cristo Rey Jesuit. Varela works in administration with the school.

Pictured (left to right):
Julie Ortiz, Flirtisha Harris, David Garcia-Prats, Ivan Earls (back), Justin Aquila (front), Alexandra Snodgrass (front), Maricela Varela (back), Greg Adragna

Article brought to you by: Catholic Online (