Cristo Rey Columbus High School isn’t like other schools.
As part of the 28 schools forming the Cristo Rey network (founded in 1995 in Chicago by Jesuit priest John P. Foley), this Columbus, Ohio private school takes underprivileged kids and gives them the opportunity to learn and work professionally for free.
Initially, a full year’s tuition at Cristo Rey Columbus costs $18,000, according to the Atlantic, but after the school reaches capacity, the price tag drops to around $12,000 to $13,000. And then with a little more finagling, students pay basically nothing.
How is this possible?
First off, Ohio offers a voucher program (worth $5,000 each year) for students to attend another school if the one closest to them is deemed a “failing school.” Fifty-nine percent of Cristo Rey Columbus students are eligible. Additionally, the school offers the unique Professional Work Study Program. For five days a month (one day a week and two days every fourth week), students can work for one of the school’s partner companies or institutions earning about $6,500 a year, which goes straight towards tuition.
Opening in 2013, Cristo Rey Columbus began its inaugural year with 85 students, and this year’s class boasts 117. All come from financially-needy homes where the average income is $35,000 per year. So far, the school has found success: 100 percent of the 2014 graduates were accepted to college.
The school’s faculty is handpicked for their teaching skills and belief in the Cristo Rey mission that education will break the cycle of poverty. As a result, teachers are dedicated to helping the students succeed in the workplace by helping them prep for interviews, offering tips on dressing and giving basic training.
For school Director James Ragland, the hope is that this experience will bolster the students for the future.
“We don’t use the word ‘fear’. We prefer ‘opportunity’,” he tells the Atlantic. “The majority of their day is with us. The message [of a culture of positivity] is delivered in context from the janitor on down (sic) to the president.”
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