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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Work-Study Programs in Catholic and Jesuit Schools

Some parishes serving inner-city communities have instituted an innovative program for students unable to afford the tuition: work-study.

In short, local businesses provide paid positions to Catholic High School students enrolled in a work-study high school program. A team of students share one job, each working one day a week and attending school the remaining days of the week. The company pays a majority of the tuition for each student enrolled in the work-study program and a combination of the parents and/or other funding sources pick up the remainder of the tuition.

Student's intern in professional environments (e.g. banks, law firms. . . . no one is flipping a burger) and learn skills that not only pay for their high school education, but help them work their way through college. The first work study parochial high school program began in Chicago in 1996.

This fascinating article outlines the growth of the Christo Rey network of work-study high schools throughout the nation, already 5000 students strong and rapidly expanding. The program that started with only 80 students in a poor urban Chicago community has expanded to a nationwide network of 19 schools and 5000 students. More new schools are slated to open in 2008 and by 2012 the goal is to serve 12,000 students. In addition, the Christo Rey Network receives funding from a number of corporations and private foundation. The network's website can be found here. There are links to numerous news stories there, few of which I have had a chance to read.

I find this program to be innovative and exciting. Take the comments wherever you want to take them. I'm signing off for now.


Abbi said...

When I was in Ramaz, the last semester of our senior year was "work-study". We were placed or found ourselves unpaid internships in work environments I think once a week. (This was 15 years ago, but I think they still have the program). I'm very surprised that this program took off, because most corporations love their unpaid interns.

This unpaid work is one of the major reasons so many middle/upper middle class students are able to get ahead of their lower class peers- they can afford to gain the resume-boosting experience with their parents' support.

It's fantastic that the network found so many generous businesses to support this. I'm not sure how this would fly in the more middle class arena of Jewish schools.

Abbi said...

(I was referring to the program in your post, not what I did in hs., in the first paragraph)

Dave in DC said...

I'm all for kid employment, having mowed lawns for my money in high school and worked my way through college with more professional jobs... but one of the reasons that I pay so much for Jewish day school is that there is so much material to cover! I can't imagine encouraging my kids to take off a day a week from instruction, even if it meant workplace experience and a tuition break.
Still an intriguing idea... just not for me.

miriamp said...

That's exactly what I was thinking... the kids really can't afford a whole day off from school every week and still be expected to cover the full double curriculum. Interesting though.

Another thought I had about Catholic schools in general... did you know that the Catholic Church "bills" its members their "tithe?" We're not talking the standard passing a plate for donations at services (although they probably do that too.) We're talking if you're a member, you are told how many charity dollars you owe them, in addition to membership fees. Similar to a Yeshiva's fund-raising requirement, I guess, but I think it comes out to much more money that they can then funnel to the schools and other programs. Very different from our programs that basically each try to collect voluntary donations from the general (frum) population and wind up competing with each other.

triLcat said...

humn. I just had a thought. People will say it's a terrible one... but what if instead of studying 9.5 months a yeat and spending 2.5 on vacation, there were classes all year round except September (Chagim) and a few extra days around Pesach.
Then you could afford to cut a day out of each week for work.

Oh, and shorten the school day. 9.5 hours a day is just too long! Bring it down to 7.5 and maybe Mountain Dew won't be constantly sold out in the soda machine.
(that stuff tastes TERRIBLE, but nothing's better for keeping you awake through mishmar after a pulling yet another all-nighter to finish your homework.

triLcat said...

plus, it solves the problem of camp costs.

mlevin said...

Kids are still kids and they need that summer vacation to be kids. They also need a shorter school day to be kids.

Some schools are already realizing that there is a problem with too much sitting behind the desk and try to minimize homework. Oh, wait!!! These schools are doing it because parents have too many children and cannot handle helping all of them with homework.

ora said...

"Too many children"? Since when do any of us get to decide what constitutes "too many children" for someone else?

Anyway, schools should be assigning homework for the children, not the parents.

mlevin said...


If parents are complaining to schools that they cannot help all of their children with homework, then they have too many children.

My next door neighbors have only one child, when asked, both him and wife said, that had they known than how much effort it takes to raise a child they would not have had even that one. One is too many for that family.

And if you are skeptical about complaining I would advise that you read Bnos Leah newsletter. In it you will find homework stress on parents defined as: “… half an hour of homework multiplied by number of children…” Meaning, that parents literally complain to school to stop giving homework because they have too many children.

ora said...

As I said, homework is for kids, not for parents. Why should a parent be forced to limit their family size just because the school can't assign age-appropriate work? And why should any parent, even with only two or three kids, be forced to spend over an hour of their after work time working on homework instead of bonding with their family? IMO all parents have a right to tell schools that they don't want to do homework duty each night, whether they have one kid or eight.

I'm sorry your next door neighbors aren't enjoying their child. However, that really has nothing to do with what I'm saying. Your neighbors are free to decide that they have "too many kids" (as sad as they may be for the kid they have, who hopefully doesn't sense their feelings on the issue), but that is their decision, not yours or mine. It's one thing for a set of parents to decide that they can't handle more children (although if one is too many, it sounds like they aren't exactly taking a Torah based approach), it's entirely another for someone else to judge their family size.

ora said...

"And if you are skeptical about complaining I would advise that you read Bnos Leah newsletter. In it you will find homework stress on parents defined as: “… half an hour of homework multiplied by number of children…” Meaning, that parents literally complain to school to stop giving homework because they have too many children."

Did the parents quoted in Bnos Leah say they have too many kids, or did they say they are unable to help all of their kids with their homework, with "too many kids" being your interpretation of the problem?

triLcat said...

mlevin: I disagree. 2.5 months of sitting on the couch watching tv each year really didn't give me a better childhood. A shorter school day could have made my high school years much better. (well, if I hadn't lived someplace completely isolated from my friends)

And parents shouldn't have to do homework. I would say that in elementary school, my parents spent maybe 2-3 hours per MONTH helping me with homework, and usually it was the special projects rather than the daily homework.

By high school, the most help I could expect from my parents for schoolwork was a ride to the library and coins for the copy machine. Homework is meant to be the child's responsibility.

If a school doesn't recognize that and expects you to sit half an hour with each child each evening, then it's time to complain to the teachers, principal, and whatever body governs the school.

mlevin said...

triL cat

Who said that 2.5 months away from school must equal 2.5 months of TV watching. When my children were little, SIL and I would rent a house on the lake in Adirondacks for 6-7 weeks and take turns watching the kids. Between the 4 of us kids were always occupied and had a different person watching them. I took them for hikes, mushroom picking, wood gathering and etc. At night we would gather around fire and eat fire baked potatoes with dirty fingers and all. SIL would play different ball games with them. Husband took them fishing, digging for bait, canoe riding and etc. BIL took them jogging and sand castle building. Kids loved all of those activities in addition to swimming. They all learned how to swim at the very young age at that lake. There was no TV there.

Later when nephews grew up I asked my uncle and his wife to stay a few weeks with my girls. I left specific instructions on Chess lessons, vocabulary building and reading times. My girls learned a lot that year and were specifically impressed with not wasting anything. (My uncle lived through the starvation of WWII and watched his 4 y/o sister starve to death during that time. He still cannot fathom throwing anything edible out. Even tiny morsels he feeds to the birds.)

One year my mom stayed with them a couple of weeks and they learned the arts of needles; sawing, embroydery, and etc.

mlevin said...

Ora - re family size. Do you understand that when parents complain about too much homework, when it's only half an hour a day, then these parents are overwhelmed and cannot handle the sheer number of their children. In my opinion half an hour is a laughable amount and nothing to complain about.

triL cat - According to the newsletter, each child is given half an hour of homework per day. If they need help they ask their parents. Parents do not need to spend that whole half an hour with the child watching her do her homework, but it is a nice bonding thing to do. Another meathod is to check your child's homework after it is completed and point out some of the errors or omissions or give praise if applicable. Either way it is time consuming. When you have 10 children, that's 5 hours each day on homework alone. Many parents split these responsibilities between mother/girls and father/boys, but others do not have that luxury.

triLcat said...

mlevin: okay, my experiences with summer vacation involved much sitting on the couch watching tv, and a fair amount of fighting with siblings who were also bored out of their minds. For some kids, summer vacation may be an excellent learning experience, but I don't think that 2.5 months off is a necessity.

I don't think that parents should need to check their kids' homework.
That's the teacher's job. My parents never checked mine. If I made mistakes, that was part of the process. I was supposed to look over my mistakes and learn from them.

My siblings certainly don't sit with their children while they do homework. The kids usually sit at the dining room table, while the parents do things around the house (like making dinner, putting younger kids to bed, etc), and they ask for help if they need it. They're expected to do it themselves, though, without an adult sitting next to them.

Jill said...

I hope you'll pardon my intrusion - I reached your blog by clicking on your blog's link that was left behind with your comment on a Mom in Israel post (I visit Mom in Israel pretty regularly).

Through some education reform writing that I've done, I've met students at the Christo Rey schools in Cleveland, St Martin de Porres and I have to tell you, the students I met were so incredibly impressive. Just so poised, well-spoken, eager, active, just everything you want to see in a student - of any age, any religion, in any location.

A year after I met these students at one function, I then met a group of them again when the BBC show, World Have Your Say, was broadcasting from what we call a first-ring suburb, East Cleveland and the topic that day for the show was who should make the decision for when the US should leave Iraq - the Americans or the Iraqis.

Again these students were so well-represented.

I was raised Reform but went to Georgetown Univ in Wash., DC - it's a Jesuit school and service is very, very important. I went on missions to Appalachia through the school and as a result of those experiences, spent a year in Israel through Sherut La'am.

That was 23 years ago - I'm married with three children and we belong to a conservative synagogue.

But the value of service learning education is immeasurable.

I understand the challenges of scheduling, but the last thing I will say is that my oldest, a 14 year old son, didn't have a set group of things to do last summer. So we insisted that he find some volunteer work. He spent two days a week in an assisted living facility teaching senior citizens (all over 80 years old) how to use computers (which is a huge strength of his). He's continued this work into the regular school year and the experience has been so rewarding for hiim (it's part of a large Jewish senior citizen community).

Sorry I've gone on and on - but I'm so pleased to read your post. There is so much we can learn when we can see other programs, regardless of the religion that might have birthed them, for the qualities and experiences they foster that can benefit anyone.