Monday, October 5, 2020
Tom Tracy - Florida Catholic
MIAMI | A Cristo Rey school is coming to the Miami area, and it's now accepting applications for qualifying ninth grade students for the 2021-2022 school year.
The private Catholic high school offers a faith-based college preparatory program and corporate work study experience for students from families with limited economic means.
The co-educational school, which is expected to be centrally located in Miami, will be the second of its kind in the state of Florida, joining a similar high school in Tampa as one of nearly 40 Cristo Rey schools nationwide.
Organizers in south Florida originally hoped to start the Miami school in 2020 but the COVID-19 global pandemic prompted a reset until next year.
In 1996, the Cristo Rey program started in Chicago. The Society of Jesus there was looking for a way to help working-class and immigrant families attain good and affordable education for their children. The result was a college preparatory high school with an innovative business model called the Corporate Work Study Program, according to Cesar Muñoz, a 2007 graduate of the Chicago Cristo Rey school and newly named principal of the Miami school.
“There were eight or nine (Cristo Rey) schools at that time; this is the 39th and the plan is to have 50 Cristo Rey schools by 2027,” said Muñoz, whose wife and sister are also graduates of Cristo Rey Chicago.
Cristo Rey schools are now sponsored by 37 religious orders that comprise the Cristo Rey Network. A canonical entity known as the Cristo Rey Institute will serve as the religious sponsor of Cristo Rey Miami, to assure its Catholic identity. The institute takes the place of a religious order or congregation when one is not available as a sponsor, according to a press release issued by the Cristo Rey Network in January 2019.
In Miami, a Cristo Rey Feasibility Study Committee was formed in the summer of 2017. It reportedly has raised $2.5 million in private philanthropy plus capital and operating expenses while surveying the community for some 300 potential students.
During his studies, Muñoz said he held a work-study position with the prestigious Leo Burnett Worldwide, an advertising firm headquartered in Chicago.
“The whole concept and values taught through Catholic education really helped my mom and dad make the decision for Cristo Rey,” he said. “I don’t think we realized the impact the work-study would have on my formation — I feel like I grew up a lot faster than a lot of my peers.”
Organizers say Cristo Rey students gain valuable real-world job skills, contacts, and experience through their work-study job assignments. They say Cristo Rey graduates, when compared to their peers in the general population, are three times more likely to earn a bachelor’s degree.
The Miami students will work five full days a month at a number of partner businesses across Miami: The earnings pay for 50% of each student's tuition, providing them access to a rigorous, quality, college preparatory education that otherwise would be too expensive.
Cristo Rey Miami High School will utilize Florida’s Step Up for Students tax credit scholarship program to cover 30-40% of tuition.
“That one day a week going to work there was a shift in my mind that I had to act professionally, and it helped me to grow up,” Muñoz said. “Other Catholic schools will form you and form you spiritually but the idea of going into a 43rd story building working for Leo Burnett — I absolutely loved it there, and I got offered a part time job after college.”
Cristo Rey students are also often hired during summer breaks for paid summer jobs at partnering corporations.
Muñoz, who grew up on Chicago’s south side, left the Leo Burnett agency thinking he would go on to enter college as a business marketing major. But he shifted his thinking towards a focus on social work and then towards education. He then spent several years as principal at a Chicago charter school before applying as principal of Cristo Rey Miami.
“Now is my opportunity to really give back to something that means so much to me; Cristo Rey became so much more than just a school for my family,” he said.
Muñoz said Cristo Rey High School will partner with industry employers working in aerospace and electronics, accounting, agriculture, airlines, architecture, automotive, banking, education, healthcare, insurance, law and software development. Some specific employers already on board include American Airlines; AT&T; JP Morgan Chase & Co.; the Ackerman Law Firm; Jackson Health Systems; Baptist Health Systems, Costa Farms and various accounting and architectural firms.
“We will continue to expand that list of job partners and by the time we open we will need to have 100 partners in order for each student to have a job. We definitely can send more than one student to the same business, and in our network we have some businesses that take up to 32 students every day,” Muñoz said.
Students will study on campus four days a week and work in the community one day a week on a rotating schedule, allowing the companies to staff a position for an entire week with four students.
Participating families will need to show that their annual income is below a qualifying threshold. They then can expect to pay on average between $50 and $75 in monthly tuition, according to Muñoz.
FIND OUT MOREAccording to Cristo Rey Miami administrators:
- Cristo Rey Miami will be a private, independent Catholic high school accredited by Cognia, formerly known as Advanced Ed.
- Cristo Rey Miami will follow a proven, revolutionary model of a college-preparatory high school curriculum accessible to the most economically challenged families in Miami.
Corporate work study program:
- Anticipated opening: Summer 2021 with 100 ninth-grade students, with an anticipated growth to 400 students by 2024.
- Students work in a corporate environment one day per week to earn 50% of their tuition and gain valuable experience for life after college.
- Students are transported to and from their work sites.
- Students must attend a 5-week Summer Success Institute, a job training and school preparation program.
- Supported by the Archdiocese of Miami
- Endorsed by Cristo Rey Institute.
- Theology education is included in the curriculum, with students of all faiths welcome.
To begin the application process, visit https://cristoreymiami.openapply.com/.