Congratulations to the third graduating class of Cristo Rey Tampa Salesian High School.  Commencement Ceremony on Saturday, June 4, on campus in the Mary Help of Christians Gymnasium.

The Class of 2022 is comprised of thirty-four students who are all matriculating into colleges and universities across the United States. More than 92% of this class are First Generation College-bound students who applied to over 200 colleges and universities in the United States. As a result, they earned 325 college acceptances and $3.2 million in scholarships.

Graduates are going to Georgetown University, Saint Leo University, The University of Tampa, University of Central Florida, University of Richmond, University of Wyoming, and the University of South Florida, to name a few.

Cristo Rey Tampa’s Third Annual Commencement Ceremony was celebrated on Saturday, June 4, on campus in the Mary Help of Christians Gymnasium. The Gymnasium was filled with family, friends, Corporate Work Study Partners, and Cristo Rey Tampa supporters for this memorable occasion. Keynote speaker, Colonel Courtney Finkbeiner of MacDill Air Force Base 6th Medical Group, shared the story of Shamgar and his ox goat from Judges 3:31. Colonel Finkbeiner highlighted three lessons that graduates could take from this story. In her soft, commanding voice, she reminded each graduate:

  1. To conquer your challenges, start with what you have.
  2. Start from where you are.
  3. Succeed in life for the Lord, don’t worry about being praised or becoming something mighty.

“Remember, God will always remember us when no one else does. You are important. Go out and do great things,” said Colonel Finkbeiner. In addition to her words of wisdom, Colonel Finkbeiner presented each student with a Medical Group challenge coin after they received their diploma. The coin signifies an airmen or civilians commitment to TLC4: trust, leadership, courage, competence, compassion, and communication.  

The Cristo Rey® model is set apart from other schools by its Corporate Work Study Program. Our Corporate Work Study Program (CWSP) Partners invest their time in our students and introduce them to the workplace. To announce the Valedictorian and Salutatorian, CWSP supervisors took center stage and shared their sentiments about the students. They play an integral role in a student’s high school journey; not only do they introduce them to work life, but they serve as a role model, teacher, and mentor and are part of the Cristo Rey Tampa family.

Mr. Joe Kynion, Director of Information Technology at the Hillsborough County Tax Collector’s Office, introduced Salutatorian Duncan Rogers. He shared that Duncan was introduced to the various aspects of their Information Technology department and excelled immediately. He went on to share, “Because of how much he has impressed us, and our desire to continue being a part of his future growth. We will be offering him a position while he is attending the University of Tampa to help give him experience in a field that promotes real-world knowledge as much as a degree. This experience will hopefully help him find an opportunity after graduation, if not with our agency, that would recognize the talent that he possesses, not only in his technical acumen but also in his character as a person.”

Ms. Darlene Winterkorn, Faith Community Nursing Program Coordinator from BayCare Health Systems, introduced Valedictorian Graciela Cordero, who will attend Georgetown University. “Graciela was involved in helping combat food insecurity through food distribution at one of our partner’s food pantries, constructed mission baskets for families in need, and performed administrative activities at La Esperanza Mission Clinic in Wimauma. She also helped orchestrate special events for our volunteer nurses and other community partners.” She shared a poem entitled “He Uses Every Crayon” that spoke to Graciela’s impact and attributes. “If I were to capture Grace’s attributes in one crayon, it would have to be gold. Gold represents success, winning by coming first, achievement, but most importantly, inner peace,” Winterkorn said with a proud smile of Cristo Rey Tampa’s Valedictorian.

The Third Annual Commencement Ceremony came to a close with well-wishes from Jeff Sparling, Chairman of the Cristo Rey Tampa Board of Directors and Partner at EY.

Congratulations to the Class of 2022, and thank you to those cheerleaders – teachers and staff, Corporate Work Study Partners, parents, and friends- who supported the students during their high school years.

Now, Class of 2022, your college journey starts, and remember, you are always a Cristo Rey Tampa Panther!

Photos: Joe Photo Tampa