Open for business: Cristo Rey Fort Worth partners with corporations for annual draft day

North Texas Catholic
(Aug 26, 2021) Local

Cristo Rey students

Monica Collins (far right) Director of Operations at J. Taylor & Associates, poses for a photo with Cristo Rey students after they were drafted by J. Taylor during Cristo Rey Fort Worth's Draft Day, on Aug. 25, 2021 at the Will Rogers Auditorium in Fort Worth. (NTC/Ben Torres)

Cristo Rey draft day Photo Gallery

FORT WORTH — Cristo Rey Fort Worth got down to business August 25.

At the high school’s annual draft day, almost 60 local corporate partners were matched with more than 200 Cristo Rey students for work/study internships.

Chuck Cooperstein, the Dallas Mavericks play-by-play announcer for ESPN radio, served as master of ceremonies for the high energy, high enthusiasm event, held at the Will Rogers Auditorium.

As the crowd of corporate partners and students’ families roared and a mariachi band played, the students paraded in. Fort Worth Mayor Mattie Parker opened with remarks about the need for the college preparatory school, citing that only 14 percent of low-income Fort Worth high school graduates typically complete a two- or four-year degree. She concluded by telling the Cristo Rey students they were “brave, smart, and leaders” for the future of Fort Worth.

Next, the students were drafted by local businesses including Cook Children’s Medical Center, General Motors, Byrne Construction, and Texas Christian University for their 2021-2022 internships. A panel including Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor member Darren Woodson and Annette Landeros, president of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, provided commentary.

Higginbotham Insurance Group, in its fourth year as a corporate partner, drafted four students, three of whom have worked for them each of the previous three years. Higginbotham’s Leah Scoggins, who works with operations/special projects, said they have seen tremendous growth in the students. Arriving as shy freshmen and unsure of themselves in a professional work setting, they have “come out of their shell” and developed enough confidence to recommend initiatives.

Cristo Rey students

Advancement Foundation President Clint Weber, Chief Development Officer Renee Underwood, and Executive Assistant Deborah Pettie (L-R) pose with Cristo Rey students the Advancement Foundation for the Diocese of Fort Worth drafted on Aug. 25. (NTC/Annette Mendoza-Smith)

Scoggins said Higginbotham employees have mentored the students, and the dream would be to see these student graduate from college and return to work at the insurance brokerage.

Tarrant Regional Water District attended draft day for the first time, and its four Cristo Rey students will work in its public affairs, infrastructure engineering, government affairs, and administrative offices. John Gunter, recruiting and diversity specialist, said TRWD’s first-year partnership with Cristo Rey “is a great way to make a contribution to these students and to the people that we serve.”

Draft day inspired gratitude in Cristo Rey Fort Worth President and CEO Nathan Knuth. He said, “So many generous individuals are continually led to come forward and support our efforts to offer our students a much brighter future. We are grateful that God has prompted so many local companies and partners — nearly 60 this year — to step up and employ our students through our corporate work/study program. It is humbling to witness how Our Lord is at work in our community.”

For Cristo Rey board member Javier Lucio, draft day is always a great event, but this year is a “milestone year,” because the school will graduate its first class of 49 seniors in June 2022. “It will be exciting to see the children get into college, doing what we said the school would do.”

As the students begin their corporate work/study assignments, Knuth added, “My prayer for our students is that they would continue to be open and cooperative with so many graces and acts of kindness that are showered upon them …. I also pray that God would continue to bring the new employees, new job partners, and new donors that He wants to be part of this team, engaged in doing His work.”

The school, located on Altamesa Boulevard in south Fort Worth, is part of a 38-member national network of schools that provides economically challenged students with a Catholic college prep education supported by its work/study program.

Students work one day each week, earning about half their tuition and gaining corporate work experience in an entry-level job with clerical or administrative responsibilities.

Nationally, the Cristo Rey network notes that 90 percent of Cristo Rey graduates enroll in college and are three times more likely to complete a four-year degree than students from similar economic backgrounds.

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