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THEY WORK HARD FOR THEIR EDUCATION: Successful Chicago High School Pairs Students with Businesses to Help Pay Tuition

Chicago’s Cristo Rey Jesuit High School first opened its doors in 1996 on the southwest side of the city in a poor, mostly Latino neighborhood. It was founded to meet the educational needs of the students in the Pilsen/Little Village neighborhoods where the dropout rate in the public schools averages 65 percent. Now, seven years later, Cristo Rey has a dropout rate of 1 percent, a graduation rate of 93 percent, and 80 percent of its graduates pursue higher education. What’s the secret? Cristo Rey literally makes the students work for their education.

One year’s tuition at Cristo Rey is $8,450. Of that total, 26 percent ($2,200) is paid by the student. Another portion of the tuition is paid through various scholarship programs both from within the school and from outside sources. More than 40 percent of Cristo Rey’s students receive financial aid. The remainder of the tuition is paid for through the school’s Corporate Internship Program (CIP).

Students who participate in the CIP work five days a month in entry-level, clerical jobs in one of the 93 participating companies in downtown Chicago. These businesses include banks, law firms, advertising agencies, and financial offices. In exchange for the students’ work, the companies help pay tuition costs.

After visiting the Cristo Rey school and discovering how well the partnership worked for the school and students alike, Mr. and Mrs. B.J. Cassin decided to donate $22 million to establish the Cassin Educational Initiative Foundation to spread the model throughout the country. The Foundation works with religious orders, dioceses, and other groups seeking to establish faith-based college preparatory middle and high schools in economically challenged communities throughout the country. The Foundation has begun funding efforts to create more “Cristo Rey” schools in Austin, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Denver, Los Angeles, New York, and Tucson.

Learn more about Cristo Rey High School at:

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Every Child a Graduate. Every Child Prepared for Life.