There is a private school in Minneapolis making an immeasurable impact on the lives of African American teenagers in the Twin Cities, giving them the opportunity to learn from the best and brightest and also work alongside employees at some of the biggest and most-well known corporations in the Twin Cities. It’s called Cristo Rey Jesuit High School. This private school provides the best education money can buy and offers for only a fraction of the cost to local students. Last spring, Cristo Rey Jesuit H.S. graduated its first class of seniors with 97% graduating and all being accepted to a two- or four-year college or to the military.
To help you better understand the impact of Cristo Rey Jesuit H.S., I’d like to share the story of senior and Robbinsdale resident Kiara Clark. Recently, I sat down with Kiara to get a better understanding of how Cristo Rey Jesuit H. S. has changed her life. First, rewind four years ago. Kiara was attending a public school in Robbinsdale and, as she puts it, “getting into a lot of trouble.” Kiara says her classes were too big and she was behind academically. Kiara had no goals, no discipline and certainly no intentions of going to college.
“I knew for certain I wouldn’t be successful at a public school and no other school would take me,” she said.
Fast forward to today. Kiara is a senior at Cristo Rey Jesuit H. S. Her mom made the decision to send her and couldn’t be more proud of the results. Kiara has already been accepted to five colleges and is sworn in with the National Guard which has awarded Kiara a $57,000 scholarship to the college of her choice, Buena Vista University in Storm Lake, IA.
So what made the difference? How was Cristo Rey Jesuit H.S. able to turn Kiara, a once troubled student, around? There are several factors. The one that stands out for Kiara is the role discipline plays at Cristo Rey Jesuit H.S.
“My first year was a very hard transition. Everything was really, really strict. I had to wear a uniform and couldn’t wear color on my nails or even earrings. At first I felt like they were taking away my ability to be me. But soon, I understood. Discipline was the first thing the staff at Cristo Rey instilled in us. Then, once we were disciplined other things fell into place, like time management, homework, social skills, respect for our superiors and other important behaviors,” said Kiara.
Aside from behavior, Kiara also got the opportunity to work among other Twin Cities’ professionals as part of Cristo Rey Jesuit H.S.’s one-of-a-kind Hire4Ed Work-Study program. In a nutshell, students pay for their education by working in the “real world” at a Twin Cities’ company, corporation or non-profit. The money students earn working five days a month is then funneled back into the school’s budget. This equation allows some of the most underserved students in our community the chance at a private school education.
Hire4Ed eases the burden of the cost of education and exposes the student to a real-life work environment that broadens his or her horizons and encourages the student to set high goals. Put plainly, Cristo Rey Jesuit H.S. students work very hard at their “real” jobs in the corporate world and absolutely love the experience. The students’ wages also cover over half of the cost of their education.
In her fourth year of work-study, Kiara’s Hire4Ed job this year is with Lazard Middle Market, LLC, an investment bank in Minneapolis. “I’ve learned a lot at this job. There’s a corporate etiquette that I have learned. I’m also the only person of color in my setting. It makes me want to shine and over-achieve so I really stand out,” she said. Kiara’s motivation, attitude and future have changed so drastically since her first year at Cristo Rey Jesuit High School. She truly is an example of the transformations happening every day to local African American students whose true potential has yet to be tapped.
To learn more about Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Minneapolis, including information on admissions, please go to: www.cristoreytc.org