Working their way to the top

Cristo Rey schools are placing low-income students on the corporate ladder. Students who enroll in one of the network's eleven Catholic college-preparatory schools, which combine high academic standards with real-world work experience in corporate America, take on entry-level positions one day each week with a sponsoring company. In return, the school, not the student, receives a paycheck. Those funds are put toward the school's general operating expenses which, in turn, enable it to keep tuition low. At Notre Dame High School in Lawrence, Massachusetts, for example, students pay just $2,200 a year in tuition, instead of the $5,000 to $9,000 that most Boston-area Catholic high schools charge. Because Cristo Rey schools accept only children from low-income families, some worry that these students will be tempted to stay in entry-level positions. But, according to the Cristo Rey Network, students from its original (Chicago) school aren't idling on low rungs. The class of 2004 saw 100 percent of its students accepted to at least one college, while overall 82 percent of the school's grads have pursued post-secondary study. Those results are reflected in positive attitudes throughout the Cristo Rey community. One student from Notre Dame High School says: "This school makes you think, 'I can have a future if I just prepare.'"

"When high schools put teens to work," by G. Jeffrey MacDonald, Christian Science Monitor, August 25, 2005

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