Students at Cristo Rey Jesuit High School work five days a month at one of the South Side Milwaukee school’s corporate partners in the city. (Submitted photo)
Cristo Rey Jesuit High School lives up to its motto of “A School that Works.”
Cristo Rey students spend five days a month working at hospitals, banks, law firms, Catholic schools or other businesses through the school’s innovative Corporate Work Study Program.
Each day, the businesses report back to Cristo Rey and provide feedback about the student workers. School President Andrew Stith explained that Cristo Rey encourages the businesses to have conversations with the students about their job performance.
“Students are likely to grow from premium, critical feedback, and if they learn to take feedback at a young age and not take it personally, it helps them improve the quality of their work,” he said.
Through the program, students work in job-sharing teams of four and are paired with local companies based on interests and skill sets. Students work five full days per month within normal business hours. Students’ academic coursework is scheduled around the work schedule, ensuring they won’t miss any classes.
The students are not on the organization’s payroll but are employees of Cristo Rey’s Corporate Work Study Program, which helps each student finance the cost of their education.
All 465 of the school’s students participate in the program.
“What is neat is that students can work in the summer if they want, and some are getting jobs where they were student workers. They are now professionals where they grew up,” Stith said. “As our students move further into their careers, I think we will see more of this taking place in our community. They are learning what it means to be professionals and understand what it takes to do a good, honest day’s work and come back and help the community. We don’t want to graduate people who are just learning how to work, but who can contribute to the Milwaukee community and see the good they can do in the city.”
Before students of the school, which opened in Milwaukee in 2015 based on a national model of education that began in Chicago in 1996, begin working, they must complete a training program that includes workshops focusing on phone skills, dressing for success, time management and first impressions.
“The plan is they will go to college after high school,” said Stith. “This is a prep school, and we find that a lot of what they learned in the workplace is transferrable to future work or college.”
Before COVID, Cristo Rey hosted a draft day event, similar to the NFL Draft. Part of the function of the school’s Corporate Work Study office is to go out and talk to business leaders about the program. While students may express interest in the type of job they wanted, none of them knew where they would be placed until the Draft Day.
“It was a big celebration and we hosted it just like the NFL and we would celebrate with the business partnerships. Unfortunately, we had to cancel it during COVID and haven’t brought it back yet. We have done a modified version, but we hope to bring it back soon,” said Stith.
Each student works one day a week and also has an additional day of the month they work on a rotational basis. Because they earn money, which allows students of a modest means to attend a Catholic high school, it gives students ownership of their education.
“The students are some of our biggest contributors to the school and they are paying for it,” said Stith. “We also provide all of their transportation to and from work. We have a fleet of vehicles available to transport 100 students each day to their workplaces around the city.”
According to Stith, there is a lot for students to take advantage of, whether it is valuable knowledge, developing a career or learning business etiquette. Students also create positive relationships in the business and professional communities, build their resources, acquire valuable job experience and marketable skills, develop a network of business contacts, gain exposure to a wide range of career opportunities, inculcate a strong work ethic, and increase self-esteem.
“There are 38 schools around the county who follow this same Corporate Work Study Program, making it the largest network of Catholic high schools around the country,” said Sith. “We are always looking for interested businesses to partner with us in this work-study program. I would invite them to give us a call and we can discuss further.”
Interested Milwaukee area business are invited to contact Cristo Rey High School 414-436-4600, or email@example.com.
Cristo Rey Jesuit High School
1818 W. National Ave., Milwaukee
President: Andrew Stith
Principal: Luke Harrison
Admissions: Maria Hansen (414-436-4600, ext. 2117)
Open House: Oct. 22, 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m