Alexis ’23 and Diana ’23 had not banked on attending college. While they both took school seriously, higher education didn’t seem like a financially feasible option for either of their families until they found out about Berea.
Alexis grew up in Oak Cliff, Texas, in a single-parent household with his mom and two younger brothers. He often stayed home with his siblings while his mom consistently worked at least two jobs to accommodate their needs, first as a secretary for a medical clinic and, more recently, as a liver transplant coordinator.
“She made a lot of sacrifices for us, and always prioritized giving us the best academic options,” Alexis said.
During Alexis’ elementary and middle school years, he attended private Catholic schools geared toward lower-income students. Following the trend of his primary education, Alexis and his mom found a high school that would continue to make private education affordable.
Cristo Rey Dallas is a Catholic, college-prep high school that implements a work-study program for all students, enabling them to pay their tuition. Similar to Berea, Cristo Rey Dallas, a part of the Cristo Rey national network of schools, provides opportunities for students to build their resume and experiment with potential career options.
“I was able to work for two architecture and infrastructure-solution firms, Corgan and HNTB,” Alexis said. “It definitely influenced my current major in business management.”
Cristo Rey Dallas provided a rendezvous of sorts for both Alexis and Diana, who would later attend Berea together. Diana grew up in Pleasant Grove, Texas, across town from Alexis’s childhood neighborhood.
Diana helped translate for her Spanish-speaking parents and took on a lot of adult responsibilities to help out her family of six. “I tend to help with things like taxes, mail, messages, and job-related emails,” she said.
Cristo Rey Dallas was Diana’s first glimpse at private education, as the work-study program allowed for more financial flexibility. She and Alexis both enrolled as first-year students and the first official class of Cristo Rey Dallas, where Diana gained job experience in a law firm.
“While I’m not going to school for law, I really value having professional development at that age,” Diana said.
Alexis caught wind of Berea through his school. The College invited 30-some schools from the area to come visit, and Alexis, as class vice-president at the time, was chosen to attend.
“It didn’t seem real,” he said. “I kept waiting for there to be some kind of catch. It was an all-expenses-paid visit, and when I learned about the tuition promise, I knew I’d found my dream school.”
Upon Alexis’s return, he told Diana about Berea and the resources it offered low-income students. “When he was explaining it to me, it wasn’t hard for me to understand because it was so close to the way our high school was modeled,” Diana said.
Both students were supported by their families to pursue education, but neither of their families had the means. They would be the first ones to go to college.
“My mom really wanted to help, and she cried when she realized she couldn’t,” Alexis said. “I told her not to worry, that I would figure something out.”
After learning about Berea, Alexis sought advice from the father figures in his life, his uncle and grandfather. He didn’t want to leave his mom for something of which he was unsure.
“I explained what Berea was like and the opportunity that was offered, and they told me I had to go,” Alexis recalled. “It seemed like a once-in-a-lifetime thing.”
Likewise, Diana was hesitant about the concept of Berea. “Not only had no one in my family been to college, but I had never thought of leaving Texas for school.” After a lot of deliberation, her parents were pleased and supportive that she could receive a private college education even if it was out of state.
The pair are now in their third year at Berea. Diana is studying health and human performance and working in the Seabury gym on campus. She runs track and cross country and has been a competitive asset to both teams. Alexis is majoring in business management and is currently working as a resident advisor and playing for the College soccer team.
“I think we both had a sense of community upon arrival at the College because we were involved with the sports teams,” Alexis said.
Although the COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t allowed for the most traditional of college experiences, Alexis and Diana are happy to be back on campus and attending in-person classes.
“Berea is enabling us all to get a degree we otherwise couldn’t afford,” Alexis said. “Overall, I know I made the right choice to come.”