This week’s podcast is focused on the Cristo Rey network.  First, President/CEO Elizabeth Goettl of the Cristo Rey network joins me to discuss the origins of the Cristo Rey network and how it operates as a system.  Goettl mentions the origins in 1996 in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago.  Goettl describes the model and their strategic plan for growth.

Currently sitting at 35 schools, the goal is to grow to 50 schools in the next decade.  Goettl describes the four-part feasibility study which is mandatory—based on finding a facility, establishing a need, finding the seed money, and locating partners to secure the jobs.  The model is not for everyone and we discuss how some feasibility studies show that a school will not work as well as situations where Cristo Rey schools have failed.

Next, three juniors from Cristo Rey New York HS in Spanish Harlem join the podcast and discuss what their jobs look like, what their commutes look like, and how their high school experience is different from their peers at other schools.  It’s a great look at the Cristo Rey model from the students—meaning we are focusing on the student experience.  When you consider the life lessons they are learning and soft skills/social capital they are acquiring, it explains why there needs to be such a robust counseling program for student support.

The students are followed by three great teachers from the same high school.  These are committed educators who believe in the mission of Cristo Rey.  They each pointed out the amount of formation which needs to take place.  Some of the students are behind when they start and need to learn how to be students and how to study.  But they point the students toward college through rigorous teaching, says Brendan Faughnan, the Dean of Faculty.

“If you understood the homework, then I did a good job of teaching,” said Sister Janice Kraft, SCC, one of the school’s math teachers.  And if the students can’t do the homework, then reteaching needs to take place.  The level of accountability which Sister holds herself is a high standard!  It is clear that the teachers are committed, work hard, and hold themselves and the students to high standards.

The school is demanding for students and teachers alike.  The mission is palpable and ever-present in the school.  The teachers discussed how there are explicit and implicit ways the mission is expressed.  The ultimate goal is not just to get the students into college but to transform society, says Nick DeBarbrie, one of the school’s religion teachers.  Sister Kraft mentioned that what makes Cristo Rey NY unique is the students learn “because of you” not despite you.  The role of teachers is essential in the Cristo Rey HS, who doesn’t give a handout, but a “hand up.”

The final guests were from the schools’ Corporate Work Study Program, Catalina Gutierrez, the Managing and Sales Director, and Adriane Castillo, the Director of Operations and Curriculum.  Gutierrez discusses the relationship building which takes place between the school and business partners.  Cold calls and emails are a waste of time.  The best way is to find someone who they know at a company as a means of introduction to a business partner.

Castillo ensures there is support for the student workers and responding to the corporate concerns.  She mentions that all incoming students take a 3-week course in July learning the foundation of the workplace (aka “Business Boot Camp”).  This is in tandem with an English and a math course to get prepared for the new school year.  After that, all students take a “Corporate Applications” class where they continue to learn the professional and technical skills they need to be successful in the workplace.

The logistics of employing students, managing their work relationships, and teaching them the skills necessary is an ongoing challenge for the Corporate Work Study program, which raises 40% of the school’s operating budget every year.  The advantages of building a network and a resume help the students “bridge the privilege gap” according to Gutierrez.

Here is another link to this week’s podcast.  Don’t forget to subscribe!

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