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New High School Requires College-Prep Classes And Jobs

Temporary headquarters of Cristo Rey Columbus High School.
Debbie Holmes
Temporary headquarters of Cristo Rey Columbus High School.

Lower-income high school students who want to prepare for college and gain valuable job skills can apply to a new school set to open in Columbus this fall. It'€™s called Cristo Rey Columbus and it will be the 26th of its kind in the country. The school combines a religious education with work experience to help fight poverty.

"You can tell you'€™re working in professional fields because of how you converse, and act and dress and everything," says Molly Weissman with PNC Bank.

She and several other employers meet with students at Cincinnati'€™s DePaul Cristo Rey High School at lunchtime.

About 50 businesses and non-profits partner with the two-year old school to give students work experience as they study college-preparatory courses.

They answer phones, sort mail, and organize presentations while at their jobs, five days a month, during normal school hours. Fourteen-year-old freshman Imani Vann works at Cincinnati Children'€™s Hospital.

"I thought it would be much more difficult to handle school and working at the same time, but surprising it's very easy" says Vann.

Employers pay the school about $6,500 per student which goes to their tuition. State school vouchers are expected to supply about $5,000 per student, if they come from under-performing schools, and the rest of the money needed comes from fundraisers.

"€œWe believe this is a powerful way to lift another generation of people out of poverty by giving them an educational opportunity that normally you have to pay a lot of money for," says President of DePaul Cristo Rey, Sister Jeanne Bessette.

Cristo Rey Columbus is scheduled to open in August with a freshman class of about 100 students. Renovations at a temporary site will get underway this month.

"€œThis side of the hallway we will have one classroom, and we will knock out the walls that are the east, west walls."

In 2014, a permanent school building will open downtown at the old Ohio State School for the Deaf near the Columbus Metropolitan Main Library.

President of the new school, Jim Foley says the Archdiocese of Columbus is sponsoring the new school that will emphasize a college-preparatory education and job experience.

€œWe'€™re taking students that in many cases are 2 to 3 years behind academically. So we'€™re not taking kids that are testing, coming into high school at the junior level," explains Foley.

The school day and school year are longer and tutoring is available after school.

Fourteen-year-old Miriam Garcia is looking forward to being the first in her family to go to college. Garcia says her parents who immigrated from Mexico are very supportive.

"€œThey want me to succeed, they had the opportunities but they didn'€™t take them. And they want me to succeed, they want to see me succeed and I want to show them I can. I want to make them proud," says Garcia.

Garcia is Catholic, but students of all faiths are welcome. They all however must study four years of Catholic theology.

Regional President of Commerce National Bank, Jennifer Griffith says her company will employ four students.

"€œWe want them to help us do some database work, keeping our databases accurate, up to date, engaging with our professional staff," explains Griffith.

In early August, the freshman class will undergo two weeks of work training where they'll learn what is expected of them in the workforce.