If it wasn’t for the REACH Program, there’s a high likelihood that I would have been a follower as a student. I possibly would have attended a high school just because my friends were going there or because it was closer to my home in Queens. There’s a good chance that I would not have been introduced to the Jesuits and their tradition in education. Who knows what career profession I would’ve gone into?
Instead, I went through the rigorous application process and found myself in a class of about 30 rising sixth-graders headed to Scranton and away from our families for the first time. That’s where we did more than just advance our skillset in language arts and math. We also learned valuable life skills and fostered friendships – some of which I still have to this very day.
The sacrifice of six summer weeks led me to become a leader in the classroom when I got back to school in the fall. Many of my former REACH classmates can recount a similar experience. Those weeks and Saturdays throughout the school year were challenging but ultimately paid off when we all went off to high schools of prestige in the city. Many of us also earned scholarships to assist our families. REACH’s namesake and mission of recruiting excellence in academics for Catholic high schools was accomplished but just one step forward.
I went on to attend Xavier High School, where I experienced some of the best four years of my life as I continued growing in my education and faith with many of the REACH principles still applied to my daily life. A funny story of how I went on to find a foothold in journalism at Xavier also comes as a result of REACH.
Many of the original collegians, Regians, and teachers from the early REACH years probably recall how much of a Yankees fan I am. REACH kickball and whiffle ball games were treated like the World Series because I didn’t play organized baseball until 8th grade due to the conflict that a Little League schedule would have with REACH. It was a setback in my athletic development, and when I was cut during freshman year baseball tryouts, my dreams of playing for the Yankees were dashed. It was time to pivot to the next-closest way of staying involved in sports, and I figured reporting on it was the best option.
I wasn’t the strongest writer in my REACH classes, but I grew to love storytelling in high school and stuck with it through college and post-collegiately. I chose to attend Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin because while I was in a similar position coming out of middle school, I balanced scholarship offers with the sense of community. Marquette being a Jesuit school with a good journalism program made it the right decision.
I’ve covered countless college basketball games, Major League Baseball games, and eventually accomplished a dream of covering the Olympics in 2016. Whether it’s through articles, videos, or podcasts, I harken back to the fact that REACH helped give me the tools that I’ve put into practice at Sports Illustrated.
Before fully immersing myself in newsrooms and internships, I spent three summers as a counselor and collegian trying to highlight that for the next generation of REACH students. When I’d see their work ethic in and out of the classroom, it took me back to the summers of 2004, 2005, and 2006, and I saw myself and my classmates in them. Many of the kids I worked with have gone on to great high schools – and since I’m getting older, some are already in college. I’m thrilled to see that the lineage of success stories continues to this very day and can’t wait to see what comes next.
Chris Chavez graduated from the REACH Program in 2007, Xavier High School in 2011, and Marquette University in 2015. Chavez has worked as a writer for Sports Illustrated since 2015, and he hosts the Runners of New York City podcast.