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By Rebecca Twitchell and Diana Nuñez
The city of Lawrence hasn’t forgotten the Boston Magazine article by Jay Atkinson, “Lawrence, MA: City of the Damned,” published in March 2012. It hurt. It was embarrassing. And unfortunately, it was true. “Crime is soaring, schools are failing, government has lost control, and Lawrence, the most godforsaken place in Massachusetts, has never been in worse shape,” wrote Atkinson.
Now enter a new article by Katharine Q. Seelye about a heroin epidemic in Lawrence featured in the New York Times, garnering national attention, and the people of Lawrence fell back into a position of feeling scorn, like all the work they had done to get ahead was now wiped away with a fresh angle on what’s “wrong” with the city.
Chin up, Lawrence. We’ve got some good news for you.
Diana Nuñez, contributor of this article and 2015 graduate of the Notre Dame Cristo Rey High School (NDCR) in Lawrence, has shed new light on Lawrence in her recent blog post titled, “Lawrence, City of the Damned Proud.” Nuñez is a current student at Fitchburg State University and is an outspoken ambassador of Lawrence.
Nuñez writes, “Lawrence is a city of talent. If you go to any open mic, talent show or play, you will see talent that often goes unrecognized. Lawrence is a city of beauty. If you walk down the Duck Bridge on a summer evening while the sun is about to set, you will see the beauty that even people from the city do not get to see every day. We are not ‘damned’ or ‘Godforsaken.’ Lawrence is a city of strength.”
During her years at NDCR, she not only grew into the remarkable young woman she is today through “hours of conversations with faculty, staff, supervisors and friends”, Nuñez took part in the high school’s Corporate Work Study Program (CWSP) which helps students of low socioeconomic status afford a Catholic, college preparatory education by working one day a week at a company.
Nuñez notes about the CWSP program, “Honestly, it’s one of the best things that could have ever happened to me. I learned so much about the corporate world that I would have never learned had it not been for CWSP. According to my current boss, I have the job I have now at the YMCA because of my past experiences.”
Having worked at Smith & Nephew, Aptus Health and Lawrence Housing Authority throughout her high school career, Nuñez not only paid for the majority of her tuition, but she also gained invaluable skills to bring to Fitchburg State and beyond.
This “beyond” is what the city of Lawrence should be looking for in future articles depicting the city in the light of strength, optimism and forward thinking. Nuñez and her fellow 446 alumni of NDCR, who have all been accepted to 4 year colleges and universities, are already making the city proud. It was recently announced that the class of 2009 received the highest college graduation rate (69%) in the Cristo Rey Network of schools as compared to the national average of 15% for students who graduate from college who come from a similar city.
The city should brace itself for what’s to come. The graduates from NDCR have plans. Big plans. Plans that will right the city that has been wronged.
In the tradition of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, Notre Dame Cristo Rey High School provides a Catholic, affordable, culturally sensitive, college preparatory education enhanced by professional work experience for young men and women from families with limited income.