Growing the School-Business Connection
Partners Put Cincinnati's Future to Work
At Huntington Bank are (from left) DPCR President Jeanne Bessette; Kevin Jones, Huntington Southern Ohio/Northern Kentucky Region president; DPCR student Jurrien, ‘20; and Cheri Reynolds, Huntington Loan Center manager.
Photography by Catie Viox
From the moment the first Cristo Rey high school opened in Chicago 22 years ago, there was an instantaneous relationship between the private college preparatory school and area businesses, a connection embodied in an innovative Corporate Work Study Program (CWSP). The school’s dual-focus education model caught on immediately, and today DePaul Cristo Rey High School in Cincinnati, sponsored by the Sisters of Charity, is one of 35 Catholic high schools in the Cristo Rey Network currently serving 11,500 students nationwide.
Thanks to the school’s 100-plus local CWSP partners in Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky – ranging from Fortune 500 to medium-sized and family-owned businesses and non-profit organizations – each DePaul Cristo Rey student in grades 9 through 12 receives a top-notch education while adhering to a five-day-a-month work schedule. And the CWSP benefits its Corporate Partners by providing a less expensive alternative to hiring entry-level adult employees, and without the administrative overhead. The program, providing a revolutionary boost to Cincinnati’s urban education landscape since 2011, is unlike any other high school vocational or work-study program in the area.
“All of our Corporate Partners expect our students to work from the first week of their freshman year to the week of their graduation four years later,” explains Sister Jeanne Bessette, OSF, Ed.D., school president. “Students’ work experience provides the funding for their education, so on a very practical level students are earning a portion of their own education costs.”
Student earnings from the CWSP totaled $2 million for the 2017-18 school year.
“Students take the traditional college prep courses, but the curriculum they follow in the workforce is really what helps them mature quickly and imagine themselves as productive young adults,” Bessette continues.
The list of companies involved in the CWSP continues to expand as businesses recognize that their participation not only helps shape Cincinnati’s future by making a high-quality, college-prep education available to those students whose families could not otherwise afford it, but they are also helping develop a pipeline of diverse talent, impacting their corporate culture through inclusion and empowerment, and helping build an economically vibrant city by investing in education and area workforce development.
Students typically go to work for a company in teams of four, at a cost of $29,500 per team. Each student works five full days per month, allowing students to gain valuable professional experience without impeding required classroom instruction time.
“That’s four students each company is moving along the trajectory to success instead of the cycle of poverty,” Bessette says.
While most Corporate Partners hire one team of students per school year, there’s been a recent increase in the number of companies hiring two teams.
“That’s eight students. That’s a deep investment,” Bessette notes. “What we also need is the breadth of more companies willing to hire these young people. That’s the direction our school needs to go.”
Cheri Reynolds, Loan Center manager at Huntington Bank in Cincinnati, is but one satisfied CWSP participant.
“We’re all in with what [DePaul Cristo Rey High School] stands for, what they’re trying to do for families and students, and it aligns with how Huntington wants to be involved with and make a difference in the community,” Reynolds says. “We are the second Huntington group to participate in the Corporate Work Study Program – there was already one in place at our Columbus location. They could not say enough positive things about working with the school and the students.”
Building Futures Together
DePaul Cristo Rey High School students, at age 14 or 15, show up on their first day of their assigned jobs on time, ready to work. They’re familiar with what it takes to be a
responsible colleague, to work on a project as a team. They perform entry-level work that, if they weren’t there, some adult would be paid to do.
“But again, it’s not just a matter of getting work done,” Bessette reiterates. “So many companies in this region have a social commitment to the region, and they want to leverage their resources to positively impact the community at the social level. Our Corporate Work Study Program gives employers a chance every single day to affect social change. They are showing a gifted young person what their lives can be if they stay in school, get an education, develop a good work ethic and have longer-range goals than just tomorrow. If a company is serious about their social engagement in the Cincinnati region, this program is a great opportunity.”
How the CWSP Operates
What Students Do at Work:
• Data entry
• Document scanning
• Copying and filing
• Special event set-up/support
• Records management
• Assembling meeting materials/mailings
• Reception/phone coverage
What the School/CWSP Does:
• Assigns a CWSP program coordinator to each company to answer questions, address concerns and offer assistance to ensure a positive experience for all.
• Handles the paperwork and requirements for payroll, pre-employment screenings, taxes, etc.
• Provides transportation for student workers to and from work.
• Provides students with packed lunches.
Getting Down to the CORE
• All new DPCR students participate in an intense two-week CORE (Corporate Office Readiness Enrichment) program, learning soft skills, office skills, phone and dining etiquette and technical skills, including an introduction to Microsoft Word, Excel and Power Point.
Her Future is Now
Kaniya Chapple was 14 and excited about having her first real job when she arrived at DePaul Cristo Rey High School in 2012. It was her sophomore year.
“The Corporate Work Study Program, or CWSP as we like to call it, is, honestly, what drew me to [the school] to begin with,” she recalls. “Not only would I be working at 14, I would be working in a corporate office, learning skills that no other 14-year-old in any other high school around [Cincinnati] had been afforded the opportunity to learn.”
Her first work-study job was with the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, followed by a job at Turner Construction her junior year and at Macy’s Corporate Office her senior year.
“At each CWSP job that I had throughout high school, I learned different traits and skills that I carry with me today, not only as an adult in the workforce but as a college student as well,” says Chapple. She is currently a senior at Miami University where she is pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychological Science. She received her Associate of Arts degree in Social Sciences from Miami in May 2017.
Her DePaul-inspired determined work ethic and polished professional skills shone brightly, and Macy’s offered her a permanent position upon graduation in 2015. She was just 17 years old.
“I ended up working for Macy’s for a total of three years in their accounts payable and invoice processing department as an invoice processor and RTV analyst,” Chapple says. “I was extremely saddened to leave them in 2017, but a better opportunity more closely related to my field of study awaited me.”
Chapple is now the hearing services specialist for the Butler County Court of Common Pleas in the Domestic Relations Division. She oversees court-appointed entries and requests for specified court services. She also serves as the backup for the court’s fiscal services coordinator, assisting in processing invoices, payroll and billing in the coordinator’s absence. She works 35 hours a week in addition to taking 15 to 19 credit hours each semester.
“As a full-time employee and student, my job is never done, but somehow I always manage to complete the task and work at hand,” Chapple says. “It is because of DePaul Cristo Rey’s Corporate Work Study Program that I can so easily balance the wavering waters of both school and work on a daily basis. Without DePaul Cristo Rey’s CWSP and, of course, a little bit of hard work, dedication and support from my family, I can honestly say that I don’t know if I would be where I am today.”