The School That Works
Closed Caption Transcript:
The school that works. So you think, oh, sure. Are you comparing your school to other schools and you claim that your school works and other schools are not quite as efficient as yours? Well, kind of, but not really. So you couldn't possibly mean that your school actually works, as in holds a job, right? Well, actually, yes. In a manner of speaking, Cristo Rey Fort Worth is a college preparatory school where our students actually work one day a week at local companies. Hi, I'm Nathan Knuth, President and CEO of Cristo Rey Fort Worth College Prep. And I am so happy and honored to be a part of Impact Fort Worth today and to be part of this tremendous effort to bring together so many outstanding agents for change in our local community. Back in 1996 in an urban neighborhood on the south side of Chicago, a group of optimistic individuals came together to start a new college prep private high school for the young people of the neighborhood that were predominantly, in this case, Hispanic, and from families of limited economic means. But how to fund a non-profit school like that? Quite a challenge. One of these individuals had the brilliant idea. What if the students could work one day a week and help pay for their tuition? What started out as a necessity to keep the lights on, in retrospect, was a stroke of genius and inspiration. The Cristo Rey model was born. The Cristo Rey Network of thirty seven high schools currently across the country delivers a career focused college preparatory education and a Value-Based Tradition for students with limited economic resources. Uniquely integrating rigorous academic curricula with four years of professional work experience and support to and through college. Cristo Rey partners with educators, businesses and communities to enable students to fulfill their aspirations for a lifetime of success. Just a couple statistics. Students graduating from Cristo Rey are 1.4 times more likely to enroll in college, and students are also 3 times more likely to complete a bachelor's degree by age 24, in both cases compared to the total US low income population. Now, that is starting to sound like the school that works. Here in Texas, the first Cristo Rey High School started down in Houston in 2009, and that school now has over 500 students. Dallas followed in 2015 and now has over 460 students. And right here in Fort Worth, Cristo Rey Fort Worth College Prep started in the late summer of 2018 with our founding class of freshman. We are a few months into our third year with over 160 students in grades 9 through 11. Our founding class will be seniors next school year and will be our first graduating class. We can't wait. So what are some of the real social problems we are tackling? Let's focus on three. Generational cycles of poverty. Inequality of opportunity. The skills gap of our future workforce. Now, I'm a firm believer that a quality education is pretty much the solution to all three of these problems. However, making that solution real is too often very complex. Let's take a look at these three opportunities. The first, generational cycles of poverty. I've had the privilege of living in several states around the US, and I also spent 10 years living abroad outside the US, eight of those 10 years in Mexico. And I've come into contact with real life examples of what poverty looks like. It's always something that has bothered me and at the same time puzzled me, why is it that in our modern world, with so many devices, so much technology, so much development, so much growth and so much connection, there are still so many people, so many families, so many young people living in poverty. Doesn't it bother you that in a world of so much, so many people have so little? Why haven't we figured it out after so many centuries of human existence? There are undoubtedly many reasons for that, but it has always been blatantly obvious to me personally that the easiest and most efficient way to break cycles of generational poverty is through a quality education. Knowledge is powerful. Aspiration is key to empowering and tapping into the personal motivation and drive of an individual to pursue a dream, get to something better. Access to quality education is fundamental. An environment of respect, belonging and support is necessary to see a young person to and through the entire process. To come out on the other side with a certification or a college degree. At Cristo Rey Fort Worth, we are mission focused on providing an opportunity for young people from families of limited economic resources to have access to a rigorous college preparatory education that would normally not be an option for them. Many of our students come to us a couple of years behind academically, and we make a big effort to help them make up for lost time and prepare them for success at college. This requires a lot of hard work, a lot of determination, accountability, and what we like to call grit. Speaking to our students and getting to know their personal stories, you can't help be inspired by their dreams, their aspirations, what they want to achieve. They are capable of making these dreams come true. And they will, in fact... break the generational cycle of poverty or disadvantage in their family. They are creating a different future for themselves and their families. Most of them will be first gen, first generation college students. Most of them are creating the foundations of knowledge, experience and social capital to have not just any job, but actually a career of their choosing. That sounds like the school that works. Second, inequality of opportunity. Have you ever wondered why it is that in our great land of opportunity, far too often young people from backgrounds with limited economic means run into barriers of inequality of opportunity? Much of this inequality is often unintentional and is a consequence of circumstances, in my opinion. I think sometimes our free market economy is moving so fast that too many people slip through the cracks. It truly takes a village to overcome inequality of opportunity and make sure that those cracks are sealed up and nobody falls through. Many times, organizations are driven by pay for performance and results oriented mindsets as they need to be, but as a society, we need to have an awareness of how much inequality of opportunity easily crops up in our community. What are we doing to make sure opportunity is attainable by all? Again, a quality education and education reform are so key to the solution. A young professional needs a good education and skills mastery, real work experience, and also needs social capital. That is, a network of support, which is built from relationships. At Cristo Rey Fort Worth we operate two entities in-house. We operate the college prep high school and we operate what we call the corporate work study program. This program is the one that allows our students to work one day a week at local partner companies in their corporate office settings. Our corporate work study program, or CWSP, as we call it, for short functions like a temporary employment agency. We have a special permission from the US Department of Labor to be able to employ 14 and 15 year olds in our program. We act as their employer and the companies that we partner with contract our services, so we're able to deploy the student workers at their locations. We have corporate partners that range from law firms to financial services firms to energy companies to health care, to banks, manufacturing facilities and other non-profits. Our students are not technically interns. They are student workers that have entry level positions in our partner companies. Usually a team of four student workers holds an FTE. Or a full time equivalent position. One student worker comes in on Mondays, another on Tuesdays and so forth, and on Fridays they have a rotation so that each student usually works about five days a month. And Monday through Friday is covered throughout the period of the contract. Normally during the school year at each company partner. The money earned by the students for this work is paid to our CWSP agency and credited to help cover the cost of the tuition of each student. If a company would like to have that student work during a school holiday period or during summer, once they are old enough, then the money earned goes to them personally through payroll with the standard tax deductions and so on. But during the school year, that money goes to their tuition accounts. Once completely built out, our CWSP model will bring in about 50 to 60 percent of the cost of tuition for our students. That's huge. Our families contribute a portion to the cost of their tuition on a sliding income based scale based on what their household income is and what they can afford. Average gross household income for our families usually ranges from about 38 - 46,000 dollars a year. This family contribution represents about 10 percent of the cost of the tuition. We do not believe in handouts, but that everybody has to have some skin in the game. Every family and every student has to be a part of creating and achieving their breakthrough solution. Even if it's only $50 a month or $100 a month or maybe $250 a month. This fosters a sense of responsibility and accountability. The remaining 30 to 40 percent gap in funding is covered by... to cover the cost of tuition, comes from philanthropy, fundraising, corporate sponsorships and individual donors. Breaking down inequality of opportunity is definitely a community affair. Community partnerships and working with and alongside local companies is key to our success. The school that works, is that starting to ring a bell? Finally, the skills gap of our future workforce. This is a big deal and this is a huge issue for our local economy here in Fort Worth and in Tarrant County. Depending on where you look, about 39% of Tarrant County adults have an associates degree or higher, and only about 32% have a bachelor's degree or higher. At the same time, at any given time, if you look at the open jobs in Tarrant County, about 65% of those jobs, require some type of post-secondary degree or certification. Some tracking done by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board found that about 86% of the 8th grade cohort from 2009 in Tarrant County did not go on to earn a two year or four year degree after high school. There is a big gap. We are not developing and educating our young people and future homegrown workforce at the rate our local economy needs and requires. And this is a real problem that some industries are already struggling with and others will soon see these struggles. There are some great initiatives underway in Texas with the 60 by 30 project that aims for 60% of Texans statewide between the ages of 25 to 34 having a certification or degree by the year 2030. Here in Tarrant County, we have friends at the T3 partnership, for example, that are starting some great projects to address this gap with our local high schools and higher education community partners. Addressing this challenge of the skills gap of our future workforce is at the very heart of our Cristo Fort Worth model. This is a grassroots, proven model that offers kids, that in many cases, would have likely slipped through the cracks, a life changing opportunity to gain four years of real world work experience during their high school years. And they get a huge head start on creating a network of relationships in the local corporate community. Creating their network of social capital that will be so key for them in their futures. Let me give you an example. Recently, we heard from one of our corporate partner's supervisors, that one of our students was helping them in their IT department. And they recently filled an important leadership role at their company. Our student worker was assigned the IT onboarding of this new leader on their workday and to make sure that their devices were all set up and that they were all good to go with the company systems. The supervisor in question wondered if our student would be up to the task or not, and decided that he was. He gave them this assignment to help this executive. Later in the day, he checked in on the leader to see if things were going OK. The executive told him that she was fine and that our student worker was doing a great job and had everything handled and she was being taken care of. The supervisor went on later in the day to offer our student an exceptional review as representing all the right qualities and characteristics of a successful IT professional. And remember, this student is still in high school. Our student workers surprise us and our partners many times in showing us what they are capable of. We have had student workers engaged in important data analytics projects that later shaped company innovation or policy. We've had them involved in AI projects that improve customer service and efficiency or helping the design of virtual reality training to improve worker safety in high risk occupations, or serving as an interpreter for a Spanish speaking client who comes into the office or the hospital and nobody else around was bilingual at the moment and they were able to help. Our corporate work study program gives local companies an easy way to invest in the future workforce and help meet and train in the next generation of leaders. Young people of color, mostly minorities, young people from limited economic backgrounds, to give them this opportunity. They're a part of the solution. They are not making a donation and then moving on. They are paying for the wages of student workers that are working for their companies and bringing a new burst of creativity, tech savvy, digital native, young professionals into their workplace. Their up and coming management has opportunities to help supervise our student workers and gain experience as supervisors. Our students are learning a ton from our corporate partners, and our corporate partners are learning a ton from our students. Cristo Rey Fort Worth is committed to being a part of the solution and tackling these complex, social challenges in our Fort Worth community. Yes, a quality education is, in many ways, the solution. The success of our model lies in our partnerships. In the passion of our staff and in our community's commitment to change things. How can you help? Well, if you own a company or work for a local company, engage with us to see if you might be able to hire one of our student worker teams or put us in touch with the right person at your company to have that conversation. Maybe there's an opportunity we can explore. You can always offer a financial contribution to help cover the cost of a scholarship for one of our students. Just go to our website at www.cristoreyfortworth.org and click on the donate button. Consider the cost of one trip to the coffee shop once a week that will give you about $25 a month. That goes a long way to help support our student's education. Or $100 a month, if that's something you could afford. Every dollar helps. At times through the year, we are looking for volunteers for events and activities that help our students or offer mentorship or support for them from your professional experience. You can also patronize and support our local corporate partners in Tarrant County and in Fort Worth. And by supporting these businesses, you're supporting Cristo Rey Fort Worth. We can all be part of the solution by being aware and by taking action. Helping one student at a time have access to this life changing opportunity and experience that changes things. So the school that works, huh? I think you're starting to get the idea. Thank you.