"Reflecting on Peace during Advent, I look to the day when we can all come together. Look past differences in each other and find a way to do something good. We are all different religions and ethnicities, and yet, we can all put aside our differences to come together to help the environment and make things better. Together we can make the world a better place.”
The ability to reflect is part of the Cristo Rey education Billy Salas-Valdez appreciates. "I love my theology class; having the ability to learn about different religions and people's backgrounds is super interesting," he noted. He added that understanding people's backgrounds helps you consider what informs their worldview.
An engaging senior with a broad smile, Billy looks to his future with a sense of optimism mingled with everyday anxiety. “I am willing to let things unfold naturally and see where college leads me.” Currently applying to college and planning on majoring in computer science, he hopes his top choices align with the financial aid he needs to make college affordable.
"My siblings and I are fulfilling the dream of my parents, who sacrificed for years to give us better opportunities," Billy noted. His story mirrors that of many Cristo Rey students, with his dad working for nine years alone in the United States before the entire family could afford to join him from the Dominican Republic.
Billy continued, “My dad is super involved with everything I do at school; he wants to be sure that I have different options than he did. My siblings led the way, both attending college, and now it is my turn. This generation is creating a new path forward.”
The highlight of Billy’s Cristo Rey experience has been the ability to participate in the Corporate Work Study program. Working at JPMorgan Chase & Company in the facilities department since junior year, he is responsible for events and conferences, assuring the audio-visual and computers are ready, and the venue is in working order.
It is a role he enjoys. "I love my supervisor; he makes coming to work fun and has taught me a lot about being successful in the workplace." He continued, "Getting work experience in high school is helpful; it helps you mentally. One day a week, you take a break from school and experience what adults experience. It is an opportunity to learn about the real world, envision your future, and learn things that will help you succeed."