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Mission & History


ICA Cristo Rey Academy’s mission of empowering young women to achieve their dreams is a reflection of the unwavering spirit of its founders – three young Dominican Sisters in Brooklyn who in 1876 traveled more than 3000 miles across country in answer to a plea for help from San Francisco’s first archbishop.

Archbishop Joseph Alemany had recognized that the thousands of immigrant children flooding the burgeoning city of San Francisco were in desperate need of a religious education. Among the sisters who responded to his request for aid was 24-year-old Sister Maria Pia Backes, who seven years after her arrival would build what would become Immaculate Conception Academy at 24th and Guerrero Streets in the Mission District

The Academy grew quickly as immigrant families embraced the school’s combination of academic rigor and Dominican Catholic values. Several nearby buildings were purchased for expansion, and by 1904 the former students of ICA organized to promote the welfare of the school and maintain the bonds between students and faculty – a mentoring tradition that continues to this day. 

ICA remained open following the Great San Francisco Earthquake of 1906 and over the ensuing decades provided thousands of young girls from financially challenged families an educational opportunity they might otherwise never receive.

In 2008, the ICA board of directors applied for membership in the Cristo Rey Network, a national network of Catholic high schools that integrates four years of rigorous college preparatory academics with four years of professional work experience through a Corporate Work Study Program. Today, ICA Cristo Rey Academy provides young women an unparalleled education and work experience; in 2021, 100 percent of ICA Cristo Rey’s graduates continued their education in college.

Together with the Dominican Sisters of Mission San Jose, ICA Cristo Rey is proud to honor the legacy of Mother Pia Backes and the early founders by providing young women a spiritual and educational foundation to follow their dreams, wherever they may lead.


Celebrating 140 years of the Spartan Sisterhood

Learn more about the rich history of our school community from its founding to the present day. Discover how you can participate in our yearlong celebration through special 140th-anniversary events!

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