New Graduates: College Ready, Career Ready

Last Updated by Providence Cristo Rey High School on

High School graduation season is upon us. During this time of year, countless numbers of students will being making the transition from high school to college and career paths. How do we ensure that this transition is successful? In the coming weeks, we will be featuring blog posts that explore best practices in working to ensure college and career readiness.

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Brittnee Vaughn was just 14 when she walked through the doors of Providence Cristo Rey High School eight years ago. She was the first student to enroll in what has become a unique educational model partnering high school students from economically-disadvantaged communities with prestigious corporations. The result is this: Students receive both a rigorous faith-based college preparatory education and learn first-hand the discipline it takes to pursue successful careers.

Fast forward to today and Vaughn is proof that the Cristo Rey model works. Providence Cristo Rey, located on the west side of Indianapolis, is one of 28 schools in a network that spans across 17 states, and is the only Indiana high school to offer year-round internship experiences as part of the academic curriculum. Providence Cristo Rey students can even receive college credit for their work experiences.

The unique model began in Chicago in 1996 when the Jesuits, historically known as educational leaders, established a college preparatory school that would exclusively serve the low-income population of Chicago. To help pay for the cost of their education, students were asked to work in corporate offices performing entry-level jobs as part of their work week. Those on-the-job experiences have grown over the years and now include mentoring opportunities by work supervisors who help build the confidence and professionalism of students. Indianapolis partners 203 students with 79 corporations. Some companies, like Eli Lilly supervise as many as 24 high school interns.

Like most students, Vaughn logged nearly 1,000 hours of on-the-job experience during her four years at Providence Cristo Rey at such renowned companies as AIT Laboratories, Eli Lilly and Company and Roche Diagnostics. She credits those experiences with leading her on her chosen career path. She joins a distinguished group of 2015 college graduates – most the first in their families to earn a college diploma – who attended Providence Cristo Rey High School. Her IUPUI degree in criminal justice has already earned Vaughn a job offer with the Marion County Coroner’s Office. Other students will graduate from Wabash College, St. Mary of the Woods, Indiana State, Indiana University and Franklin College. Among those are a student who worked for a law firm during his time at Providence Cristo Rey and will receive a degree in political science and eventually pursue his law degree. Another student is on her way to med school and another is moving to New York City to pursue her degree in fashion merchandising.

What does College Ready and Career Ready mean to Providence Cristo Rey students? It means that 100 percent of the graduates have been admitted to 75 colleges and universities in Indiana and around the country. It means that the retention rate of our college students is higher than the national average. It means that Providence Cristo Rey students have proven their academic strength by receiving more than $5 million in scholarships and financial aid.

As further testimony of academic success, the Cristo Rey model has been recognized with the World Innovation for Education (WISE) Award for an Innovative Corporate Work Study Program. The Cristo Rey Network was nationally recognized by President Obama as a leader in Catholic Education providing service to the community and the nation. Most recently, Teresa Lubbers, Indiana Commissioner for Higher Education pointed to Providence Cristo Rey as an example of a program that achieves established goals. “We know that when students have meaningful career experiences throughout their education, they are more likely to find and prepare a career path that matches both their interest and aptitude,” said Lubbers. “Equally important, these work-based opportunities help ensure our students remain in Indiana and are equipped to meet the demands of our rapidly changing workforce and economy.”

A snapshot of Providence Cristo Rey’s graduating class of 2015 illustrates success that is often overlooked in families of limited financial means. Students have been selected for and excelled in junior executive institutes, entrepreneur competitions, and leadership camps. They have received college recommendations from top corporate executives and have had a taste of what it means to explore interesting careers such as information technology, accounting and health care.

Providence Cristo Rey students have developed college-ready and career-ready thinking strategies such as teamwork and collaboration, productivity and accountability.

“My experience at Providence Cristo Rey helped prepare me for the next steps of my life,” said Vaughn. “It showed me that hard work pays off and that I am capable of achieving anything I put my mind to.”

What do you think about the real work experience Providence Cristo Del Ray offers it's students? How can we work to make the transition from high school to college and career better for our students? Share your thoughts in the comments below, and on social media using #AmGradIndy.  

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