Photo: Cristo Rey Network
On January 20, Bay Area business professionals came to hear Fr. John Foley–founder and Rob Birdsell–president of the Cristo Rey Network speak about how an innovative educational business model can benefit San Francisco businesses while supporting the education of financially disadvantaged students.
“Nationally, education is in a state of crisis, but Cristo Rey provides us with a bit of hope,” explained Mr. Birdsell. “We are not the answer to the problem, but we are definitely part of the solution.”
All Cristo Rey students receive a quality college preparatory education and participate in a work study component, which finances a majority of the cost of their education. Corporations receive the equivalent of one full-time entry level employee while giving students real world experience, helping them grow in self-confidence and realize the relevance of their education. It is estimated that Cristo Rey students will earn over $30M towards their own education this year.
A 60 Minutes clip highlighting the Network was followed by details about the work-study program central to Cristo Rey. Representatives from Bay Area corporations such as Wells Fargo, Genentech, Swirl Integrated Marketing and Bechtel Corporation came to learn about how this innovative model grew into a nationwide network of 24 schools and 6,500 students.
“I was the biggest skeptic on whether this was feasible,” commented Fr. Foley, “but on the first day of work, corporations were calling and thanking us for sending the kids to work in their offices. We went from hiding under the table to 24 schools nationwide.” 83% of businesses hiring Cristo Rey students across the country have renewed their contracts for a second year.
Immaculate Conception Academy, an all-girls school in the Mission District of San Francisco, joined the Network in 2009 to further its mission of serving “the young, the poor and the vulnerable.” Students work at Bay Area corporations and last year 98% of students received ‘outstanding’ or ‘good’ on year-end performance evaluations.
“You know, we began this thing to pay the bills… and we got more than we bargained for,” Fr. Foley stated. “Businesses feel good, the students feel good, it’s all around a win/win situation.”