Setting the Tone for Success

Date: March, 2019

When walking into the front lobby of the Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Atlanta, Georgia, you are immediately struck by a lobby that perfectly balances sophistication with an open welcoming atmosphere. The lobby is part of a much larger capital campaign that allowed Cristo Rey to expand by renovating a former Oxford Industries building. Much like the school’s approach to its education priorities, the renovation breathed life into a building that no one was sure what to do with and made it shine.
Cristo Rey is no ordinary Catholic school. It offers a very unique high school education experience, giving Atlanta’s economically disadvantaged students a way to prepare for college, the workforce, and life. Cristo Rey’s unique program offers students a college preparatory curriculum, but this intensive program doesn’t come free. “When all of our students come here to register for school, we also register them as our employees,” explains Bill Garrett, President of Cristo Rey. Students attend classes while also working for one of the school’s corporate partners, earning a large portion of their tuition. Parents are also expected to chip in, on a sliding scale. “Two-thirds of our operating budget is provided by students working with our corporate partners,” explains Camille Naughton, Vice President of Advancement and Corporate Partnerships. The remainder of the costs are covered by parent contributions and philanthropy.

The lobby of their new education building was an important design element. The lobby needed to set the tone of success for the school,” Naughton explained. “We are very pleased with the design. The lobby needed to be sophisticated, polished, and professional while also giving being warm and inviting and I feel that’s exactly what was achieved.” She continued, “What an amazing gift AHC Hardwood Group has given us.”

AHC Hardwood Group frequently donates wood for non-profit community projects. Chief Executive Officer Jim Howard feels strongly about giving back. “As a company, it’s important that we support programs in our local communities”. He explained, “By donating exquisite hardwoods for community projects, we are able to provide high quality environmental and architecturally interesting building products, showcasing the warmth and versatility of wood, and help support the community.”

Details, a local corporate interior design firm, proposed a high visibility wood treatment for the lobby. AHC Hardwood worked with Details Owner and Designer Jillian Carr Mitchell to select the perfect wood. “With over 45 wood species to choose from, we worked to find the right combination of look and function for the project,” explained Stewart Sexton, Import Lumber Senior Product Specialist for AHC Hardwood Group. “We chose White Limba for its clean lines and contemporary feel.” The design plan called for a wood with straight grain, consistent color, and a modern look overall. The golden colored sapwood also coordinated well with the anigre furniture used in the space. “We are really pleased with how the wood wall project came out,” said Naughton. “When people come into the lobby, they are immediately drawn to the wall. Many even reach out and touch it.”

The lobby is just the start of the variety of ways that Cristo Rey sets the tone for success. With their first graduating class leaving for college in 2018 with a 100% acceptance rate and over $12.8 million in financial aid and scholarships, Cristo Rey Atlanta is well on its way to leaving their mark.

Cristo Rey Atlanta thanks the 2018/19 corporate sponsors for their continued participation and support. The Cristo Rey Network is comprised of 32 high schools that serve over 11,000 young people from low-income backgrounds, living in urban communities with limited educational options. If you would like to learn more about the Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Atlanta, visit their website:,