I think the “secret sauce” of the Cristo Rey Network’s education model is the Work-Study Program. As I have said so often, we began it to be able to pay the bills. And it does. Last school year, the 6,000 students across the country earned 30 million dollars toward their own education. But that is only one of its lesser benefits. We had no idea of the impact the work experience was going to have on their own self-image. When they find themselves holding down a job in an adult working environment, they feel extraordinarily good about themselves, life fills with hope and they see a reason for going to school. They see light at the end of the tunnel and their whole outlook changes.
I am convinced that we really do not yet know the power of our educational model. We are hoping that people will study us carefully, write doctoral dissertations about us and measure the effect that this experience has on the students academically. In the work world they learn basic skills like organizing their lives, allotting time for what is important, being on time and getting the details right. As a result they are equipped to overcome some of the obstacles that do other young people in. More than a way to pay the bills, the Work-Study Program is a gift from God. May we use it to its full advantage and make it available to those who can profit most from it.