The School That Works

Nathan Knuth, President at Cristo Rey Fort Worth

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

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.