Draft day puts Cristo Rey students to work
FORT WORTH — Kaitlyn Garcia bounded onto the stage at Hope Farms with the energy and enthusiasm of a game show contestant. The 14-year-old Cristo Rey Fort Worth student just learned she would spend one day a week at General Motors as part of the school’s corporate work/study program.
“I’m super excited because I want to be an engineer when I grow up!” the high school freshman beamed, her voice breathless with anticipation. “This is something I was really hoping for.”
Garcia and other members of Cristo Rey’s first class of students found out which corporate partner they were paired with during a spirited, and sometimes noisy, Draft Day gathering held Aug. 17 inside the Hope Farm gymnasium. Blue and gold balloons, cowbells, the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders and a performance by the Mavs ManiAACs hip-hop dance troupe ramped up the festivities.
“This is a chance for Tarrant County to celebrate the future,” said School President John Pritchett, addressing the room’s relaxed, jovial mood.
Cristo Rey Fort Worth — one of 35 network campuses across the U.S — opened Aug. 9 at the former Our Mother of Mercy School building in the Terrell Heights neighborhood after three years of planning, fundraising, and renovations. The curriculum’s unique approach provides disadvantaged students with a Catholic college preparatory education while allowing them to earn a portion of their tuition in the business world.
A three-week GRIT (Grace, Responsibility, Integrity, and Tenacity) Academy trained them to enter the workplace.
“Our students have been working since July 16 and this is a celebration and recognition of their hard work,” Pritchett explained. “It’s also a celebration for the partners and sponsors who have worked to make this school happen.”
Longtime Catholic school advocate and Cristo Rey Fort Worth board member Teresa Montes believes the work/study program is an affordable solution for anyone who wants a faith-based, college preparatory education.
“Plus, it gives them access to a professional environment — one they would never have had access to before,” she said.
Montes’ employer, Frost Bank, is a corporate job partner with Cristo Rey in Dallas and is “financially supporting the organization in many other ways.” A future partnership with Cristo Rey Fort Worth is possible.
“I’m so excited about the first year of Cristo Rey in Fort Worth. What a great educational opportunity for so many students!” she enthused.
Emily Garza visited several different high schools before choosing Cristo Rey. The campus “just felt like home,” according to her mother, Lisa Garza.
“The work/study program will give her an opportunity to learn what it’s like to be part of a workforce,” Garza pointed out. “I’m hoping she’ll build relationships with people and have more confidence in herself.”
Emily will spend one day of the school week at Pinnacle Bank. Her younger sister, Kaylee, an eighth grader at St. George Catholic School, has already applied for next year’s freshman class.
Cristo Rey’s unique corporate job sharing concept introduces young people to careers in architecture, banking, construction, engineering, energy, faith, healthcare, housing, education, hospitality, real estate, and logistics.
Julius Arredondo was happy to find out he’ll be working at Byrne Construction. The industry is a perfect match for his career goals.
“I hope to be a plumber or civil engineer someday,” he said.