Her success at Detroit Cristo Rey High School (DCRHS) is drawing accolades for Susan Rowe, this year’s inaugural recipient of the Spirit of Frida Amiga Award. It is given to a female supporter or advocate who is not Hispanic, but has made tremendous strides in support of Hispanic advancements.
DCRHS is a coed Catholic high school that provides high-quality college preparatory education to students from economically disadvantaged families in Detroit. The majority of students are Hispanic (70%) and female, and are led by founding Principal Rowe, who has created a culture that is welcoming and committed to the success of all students.
The school is located in the heart of Mexicantown at Junction and Vernor, and operates within the Archdiocese of Detroit. It has achieved some exceptional results for the students: five graduating classes since opening in 2008 with every graduate being accepted to college. They are performing above the national average.
“I am grateful that Mrs. Rowe opened my eyes and helped me realize what was really important,” said Osmara Zarate, an employee at Southwest Detroit’s Ideal Group Inc. and a 2012 graduate of DCRHS. “I am grateful Mrs. Rowe pushed me to stay in school. She motivated me to become a better me.”
Zarate is a senior at Marygrove College and is expected to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in marketing in 2017.
It’s testimonies like hers that are noticed by fellow staff member Jose J. Toro, the religious studies teacher at DCRHS. “Sue has been both a firm enforcer of rules as well as a gentle guide and maternal figure as needed.”
The high school began as a struggling “unheard of school” to one that is slowly gaining attention because of its success rate. And while Rowe has not been alone in guiding the students toward that success, she has played a pivotal role.
Susan Rowe was born and raised in Midland, Michigan, and is the oldest of nine. She graduated from Aquinas College in Grand Rapids with her undergraduate degree in sociology and religious studies. Her first teaching job was at Our Lady of Sorrows Beahan Junior High in Farmington, while she completed a master’s degree.
The next few decades were spent at the University of Detroit Jesuit High School and Academy in a tenure that went from teacher to campus minister, to dean of students in charge of discipline, to eventually principal. Her educational background spanned 24 years when opportunity came knocking to be a part of the opening of a new innovative Catholic high school in Southwest Detroit. Rowe took the challenge.
“The Ideal Group Inc. has employed DCRHS students since the school opened,” said Frank Venegas, chairman and CEO of Ideal and one of Detroit’s leading business owners. “Having the students on staff is good business and they add great value to our business culture and operations.
“Sue Rowe’s dedication and exemplary contributions are leading the school to new heights. She is creating an academic success story and high school model that can be replicated in other urban schools. She is very deserving of the Spirit of Frida Award,” Venegas said.