Cristata Cares helps students to achieve their potential

Local sportscaster and writer Keith Mills with Jonathan Odgen and Cristata Cares board members, Mattthew Wyskiel and Jonathan Bradley (Photo:

By TyShawn Key

Cristata Cares is a non-profit organization founded in early 2012 with the goal of helping others. Their mission is to help students in their schools and communities learn and practice the necessary lifetime skills to live and lead a productive and higher-quality life. Recently the Cristata Cares organization has been sponsoring various financial literacy and academic support programs at multiple schools in the community, including Patterson High School and Vivian T. Thomas Medical Arts Academy. They have also sponsored various sources of entertainment for their programs such as Dr.Q, a locally known lyricist and author here in Baltimore, as well as speakers from different health careers at Vivian T. and–here at Patterson–academic mentoring and counseling from Kelly Bagdasarian, who was a perfect scorer on the Math portion of the SAT.

Recently I had the pleasure of interviewing one of the organization’s founders, Mr. John Bradley. Mr. Bradley holds an Associates of the Arts, a Bachelors of Science, and an Accounting degree. He also received an MBA from Johns Hopkins School of Business. Through high school and some of college, however, Mr. Bradley was just as rough around the edges as some of the students at Patterson and Vivian T. In fact it was not until his father cut him off and he had to face his own financial burdens that he finally got his act together. He now is out to help others learn from his mistakes so they can get an easier start than he did.

On the afternoon of Tuesday, October 8, 2013, I had an opportunity to sit down with Mr. Bradley to learn about his background and about the Cristata Cares organization and its programs. I asked Mr. Bradley what sparked his initial flare for helping create the organization. He replied with a story of how one day he had read an article about the number of children in Baltimore City that go to school hungry every day. This struck Mr. Bradley really deep in his heart. So he said that more should be done to help the hungry children in the City and the communities in which they reside, and that it was now his duty as a citizen, and as a native of Baltimore to take on such a task. He later shared that same article with his wife and a friend. Together they went to their church, which gave them financial support. In late April, Cristata Cares got approved by the IRS as a 50C3 non-profit, and then finally in early 2012 the organization was officially formed and became active. Within its first year of working throughout the schools and community, Cristata Cares was recognized by Baltimore City as an Outstanding Partner (2013).

Later, I asked Mr. Bradley how they intended to help the children and community through financial literacy programs. What led him to believe that finances were a necessary skill-set to learn at such an age? His answer was simple. He plans to use the business rule of 72, which explains how long it takes to double the return on an investment. Cristata Cares is calculating how many lives they can touch by investing their time in the various students they encounter.

Lastly, to end our interview, I asked Mr. Bradley why people should care about the Cristata Cares organization. He replied that people should care about the organization because it is helping our children and it is helping our community. Members visit the schools about twice a week, sometimes more. They sacrifice countless hours figuring out the best way to help the children they encounter, and they do this work for free. People should care about the organization because it is helping them (the community) out. However, Mr. Bradley said that it really doesn’t matter to him what people think about his organization. He works for the children. He is doing it for the children. He and his colleagues do not care about any accolades or praise from the community. They are not in it for any fame or money. He said that their biggest payoff is seeing a child live their dream.

Mr. Bradley would like to thank Mr. Benton, Principal of Patterson, and all other partners that gave Cristata Cares a chance.

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