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From the Grounds Up

Written by Angel Rodriguez, Cristo Rey Jesuit Volunteer '22

Pictured: Alize Perez’ 21 running the shop front and serving a cup of freshly brewed coffee to a customer after Sunday Mass at St. Paul.

 

In July 2021, St. Paul Catholic Church in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood welcomed their newest addition to the parish community: Holy Grounds Cafe.

Holy Grounds Cafe is a coffee house operated by parishioners that offers a variety of house made caffeinated, non-caffeinated and refreshing drinks to fellow members of the church ,neighbors, and commuters alike. Their signature drinks menu changes weekly while brewing and serving newly inspired drinks like Choco Abuelita, Matcha Iced Latte, and even pup cups for dog owners!

Located in the church’s recently renovated basement, the cafe hosts a welcoming and warm environment where community is central to their work. Inside the cafe, bright lights and colorful displays set a positive and welcoming mood.

Through a Center for New Horizons’ summer job program, Alize ‘21, Itzel ‘21 and Jorge ‘22 - two Cristo Rey alumni and one current senior helped establish and launch Holy Grounds and applied their Corporate Work Study Program (CWSP) experiences to a real-world scenario. Through CWSP, Cristo Rey students work for and earn nearly 70% toward the cost of their education — making a quality, college preparatory education possible for students who could not otherwise afford it. The resulting work experience, career exploration, mentorship, and networking students receive is invaluable in positioning them to succeed in college and beyond.

 “The CWSP has helped me to come out of my comfort zone, strengthen my confidence, and grow my communication and soft skills, which  are now the foundations of my manager’s starter toolkit,” said Alize Perez. A graduate of the Class of 2021, during her time at Cristo Rey she worked at Freeborn & Peters LLP. She is a first-year student at University of Illinois at Chicago studying Accounting and Finance. When Alize started her summer job at Holy Grounds, her main roles consisted of creating the menu and preparing drinks, marketing, and coordinating volunteers and employees. Alize aspires to learn more about the finance industry and explore the possibility of running her own business and travel. Her recommended cafe drink is the Mexi Cafecito.

The other alumna involved with Holy Grounds is Itzel Cebrero. Itzel also graduated from Cristo Rey in 2021 and worked at the Cristo Rey Network for her work-study job.  “My internship experience through CWSP provided me with the independence and grit that inspired me to transfer what I gained from office administration work and applied it to my work at Holy Grounds, so I can manage café operations and put real work into action,” said Itzel. She previously volunteered at retreats with the St. Paul and St. Adalbert Church where she deepened her faith.  “This work through Holy Grounds reaffirms my interest in finance and especially supporting my parish by helping to bring in business with a sincere purpose in mind and serving people in the community one cup of coffee or tea at a time.”

Itzel is currently a first-year student studying finance at University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. As an aspiring small business owner, she thanked the Cristo Rey Work Study Program for developing her business interest and opening the possibility of running her own venture in the future. Itzel felt this opportunity with Holy Grounds aligned with her career plans, especially being in a manager position alongside fellow alum and St. Paul parishioner, Alize. Her recommended go to cafe drink is Cloud 9, which is a lotus tea drink that blends blue raspberry and pina colada.

Senior Jorge’s ’22 interest in becoming a software engineer was largely influenced by his IT work experience at Huron Consulting and National Futures Association. While working at St. Paul this past summer, Jorge managed and built Holy Grounds’ online presence, including their social media communications plan. This work with Holy Grounds shaped his passion for using technical skills to improve a small business’ online presence. As a former catechist and parishioner at Our Lady of Charity in Cicero, Jorge believes in the importance of caring for God’s people. At Holy Grounds he can do just that – using the profits for the parish’s programs and faith groups. His recommended cafe drink is the Iced Polar Bear Coffee, a new Holiday drink that comes with a cookie!

Four months since its opening, Holy Grounds has become a favorite in the Pilsen neighborhood, one of Cristo Rey’s newest favorite cafes. Both Itzel and Alize support the cafe whenever they can find some time between classes - either volunteering or promoting on their social media platforms. Jorge is still part of the cafe team and continues to apply his skills to improve the business.

We are proud of our alumni – men and women for others who are open to growth, religious, intellectually competent, loving, committed to justice, and work experienced. We invite you to take a trip to Pilsen and visit Holy Grounds café, only a block west of Cristo Rey.

Holy Grounds Cafe
2127 West 22nd Place, Chicago, IL 60608

Follow on Instragram (@holygroundspilsen), on Facebook, and visit their website at www.stpaulchgo.org/holy-grounds.