By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Reporter
KANSAS CITY — Signing Day. At first glance, you may think this is about professional or college sports. For students at Cristo Rey Kansas City High School, it’s signing on for future successes. On Signing Day they sign contracts to work one day each week for a particular company during the school year to learn skills that will carry them through college and into the work force down the road. And the money they earn helps pay for their high school education.
The Corporate Work Study Program, which is unique to schools in the Cristo Rey Network, partners students with local businesses. Each of the 400 Cristo Rey Kansas City students work one day each week at a business, which helps make the cost of private, Catholic college preparatory education affordable for low income families. Those businesses contract with Cristo Rey High School for teams of students to fill an entry level job, giving them on the job work experience, and paying each student $6,500 per year. Their salaries offset tuition costs.
Each student works five full days a month at one of 115 local businesses. Cristo Rey hosted Signing Day Aug. 19 to celebrate a new year of real corporate work experiences and affordable tuition, as well as a new school year. Randall Nyp, President and CEO of Providence Medical Center, welcomed two student interns, junior Samantha Ballesteros-Martinez and senior Alexus Williams, signed contracts with them and handed both young women Providence Medical Center ball caps. A third student, sophomore Rhianna Davis was at the medical center, working. Each grade level has its own work day. Sophomores work on Tuesdays.
Other companies contracted with Cristo Rey for the Corporate Work Study Program this year include Waddell and Reed, DST Services, J. E. Dunn Construction, Husch Blackwell and Polsinelli law firms; Cerner, Neenan Company, UMB, Commerce and Country Club banks, Overland Park Regional, Truman, Children’s Mercy, St. Luke’s, Research, Providence and Kansas University medical centers, Carondelet Health, St. Michael the Archangel parish school, St. Elizabeth Parish, Nativity of Mary, Visitation, St. Thomas More, Holy Cross and Our Lady of Angels schools, Metropolitan Community Colleges, Operation Breakthrough, Garmin, State Street, pharmaceutical company MedTrak, Twin Financial wealth management services; pump manufacturer and distributor Grundfos, Ryan Lawn and Tree Service and many more.
Student interns work in accounting, finance, customer service, human resources, legal, logistics, communications, tax, and many other departments. They perform a wide array of duties including data entry, Spanish-English translation services, document management, Information Technology (IT) support, Internet research, financial accounting, event support, mass mailings, reception and other entry-level office work.
Cristo Rey doesn’t send students to their jobs unprepared. During the summer months, returning students like Alexus, Samantha and senior Jahleel Allen took courses to refresh and reinforce skills in workplace etiquette, communications and time management. The 128 incoming freshmen like Cordell Parham, who has started working at Husch Blackwell law firm, attended a multi-week course to prepare themselves for the classroom and the workplace — including appropriate clothing to wear to work, time management, and communication skills. Through the “Bridge Program,” students learn Microsoft Office (Word, Excel and PowerPoint), attend communication seminars, and receive training for appropriate behavior in a professional setting. Additional training includes a team building retreat on a college campus to welcome students to the Cristo Rey family and introduce them to the school’s mission.
Some students return to the same company year after school year, while others have varied work experiences with different companies. Students average a 95 percent job retention rate. Their job experiences often influence their future employment plans and colleges applied to. But for all the students, the work study program has an impact that lasts longer than four years of high school. Cristo Rey Kansas City opened in 2006, and held its first graduation in 2010. That year and every year since, 100 percent of the high school’s graduates have been accepted to college, many with merit-based scholarships.
So if you see smiling, determined-looking young people getting off a school bus and entering one of the companies listed above or others, dressed in shirts and ties or dresses, skirts and heels, most likely they are Cristo Rey Kansas City High School students on their way to work.
For more information on Cristo Rey Kansas City High School’ Corporate Work Study program and partnerships, visit www.cristoreykc.org; email Ted Koppen, Director Corporate Work Study Program, firstname.lastname@example.org or call (816) 595-2811.