(June 11, 2011) “For me, Derontae is a great story for a lot of inner city kids that don't have hope, that don't have somebody to help them move forward,” said Rev. Steve Shafran, president of Don Bosco Cristo Rey, in a CNN piece by Larry Lazo.
The piece reported that 19-year-old Derontae Mason, who once slept in homeless shelters and on school playgrounds, is now headed to college thanks to the Don Bosco Cristo Rey High School in Takoma Park, Maryland, a Catholic college preparatory school for low-income teens.
In the piece, Mason says, "I had many obstacles that came across my way and made me want to be like, just forget it, throw in the towel you know? But the teachers, the staff, friends, family they all pulled together with Don Bosco and helped me overcome those obstacles."
Mason, the piece noted, is part of Don Bosco's first graduating class of 70 students, all of whom have already been accepted to various colleges and universities.
The CNN piece detailed early domestic problems and personal conflicts that forced Mason on to the streets when he was 15 years old. As one of six children being raised by a single mom with little money, he was in and out of homeless shelters. CNN reported that it was a child advocate that first alerted Mason's mother to Don Bosco, which the piece notes is one of 24 schools in the country that use the Cristo Rey model: a combination of employment and academics.
Students, reporter Lazo reports, must work at one of the school's designated job partners. The students are paid when the employer makes a financial contribution to the school.
Shafran explains to Lazo, "They're picking up the culture of that corporate environment. They see the people that are there, and they're picking up some great skills of interaction that's helping to mold them and their own character.”
The piece goes on to say that Don Bosco went even further for Mason and helped him to arrange housing so he wouldn't have to sleep on the streets. Families of other students at the school agreed on a rotation to let Mason stay in their homes.
Also in the piece, it says that high school was not always easy for Mason and that in his junior year one of his close friends was killed in a drive-by shooting. His teachers, the piece explained, kept prodding him to stay on track. CNN reports that Mason is now bound for Potomac State college in West Virginia on a scholarship with his sights set on becoming a pediatrician.
The article explains that for Mason this is just the beginning. Mason, a determined, soft-spoken young man, told reporter Lazo how much he will always cherish his four years at the high school. "I walk away from Don Bosco knowing I have people who care about me, more determination, perseverance than I can ever imagine."
See to the original CNN piece: High School Gets Teen off Streets and into College.