Portfolio Members
In addition to more than a dozen planning grants, The Drexel Fund has made a number of proof point investments in a diverse set of operators that meet our funding criteria and demonstrate that sustainable private school network growth is possible in the right policy environments.


In 1996 Father John Foley launched the first Cristo Rey High School in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago. It implemented a rigorous college preparatory curriculum with an innovative Corporate Work Study Program whereby students work five days each month in an entry-level job at a professional company, with the fee for their work being directed to underwrite tuition costs. The Cristo Rey Network (CRN) was founded in 2001 in order to franchise the model nationally. There are now 32 CRN schools serving more than 11,500 exclusively low-income students nationwide. Three Cristo Rey schools have received funding from The Drexel Fund since our founding:


In the mid-1990’s, the late Father Harry Tompson, a Jesuit pastor in downtown New Orleans, decided to launch an independent Catholic school in order to break the cycle of poverty through education. Based on the Nativity model of education, The Good Shepherd School opened its doors to thirty children in the fall of 2001, growing to a little over 100 students over 15 years. Given a record of academic and operational success, Good Shepherd School engaged in strategic planning in 2016-17 that calls for the original campus to move to a new facility that will allow it to triple in size and launched a network structure to support the replication of its successful school model. Good Shepherd School will relocate to its new facility in Fall 2018 and the Good Shepherd Mission Network will then launch a second campus, serving a combined 700 students when fully enrolled.


HOPE Christian Schools is a network of eight Christian college-preparatory schools in Milwaukee and Racine, WI serving predominantly low-income students. With a mission “rooted in the 3 Cs – Christ. College. Character,” HOPE Christian Schools began with HOPE Prima, a single elementary school of 47 children on the northwest side of inner-city Milwaukee in 2002. Another elementary and a high school opened within the following three years, at which time a parent organization, Open Sky Education, was created in order to launch charter schools through the Eagle College Prep network in Phoenix, AZ and St. Louis, MO. Open Sky Education also runs Compass Educational Programs, a Christian after-school program, and Compass Facilities. The HOPE network then opened three more K-8th grade private schools in Milwaukee and Racine, WI. The Drexel Fund is supporting HOPE Christian Schools’ growth from six to nine schools, serving 4,584 students when fully enrolled.


Founded by the Sisters of the Notre Dame, Julie Billiart School – Lyndhurst is a Catholic K-8th grade school that has a more than 60-year history of exclusively teaching children with special needs near Cleveland, Ohio. As a school dedicated to children with unique learning and social needs, Julie Billiart serves a wide spectrum of students. Learning disabilities range from mid to high functioning autism, ADD/ADHD, traumatic brain injury, hearing impairment, anxiety, and/or speech and language disorders. Given Ohio’s publicly funded voucher programs for students with autism and other special needs, students can receive scholarships up to $27,000 annually to designate to their choice of approved special needs providers. Having not been able to meet the demand for seats, Julie Billiart School developed a network and a plan for growth across Northeastern Ohio. By Fall 2020, Julie Billiart Schools will grow from one school to three schools, serving 375 students when fully enrolled.


A small group of individuals who envisioned an excellent Christ-centered education in the inner city of Indianapolis founded The Oaks Academy in 1998 with 53 students at the founding Fall Creek campus. The founders desired to offer a quality Classical education to students across racial and socioeconomic barriers, which they believed would facilitate revitalization in the lives of students, families, and the community at large. Due to growing demand, the Oaks Academy opened a second campus, Brookside, in 2012. In 2015, The Oaks Academy opened its middle school campus. All three campuses serve a diverse racial and socioeconomic mix of students and are rated the top schools of any school type –private, charter or traditional district – in the state of Indiana. By Fall 2026, the current three campuses of The Oaks Academy will grow by 84%, serving 1,224 students when fully enrolled.