U.S.A.: A private school for the poor

Most of the 127,000 inhabitants of Chicago?s Pilsen neighbourhood are recent immigrants, and 40% are under the age of 18. With rural Mexican backgrounds and poor education, most young people were facing unemployment or minimum wage jobs that lock them in the cycle of poverty. ?The most compelling need was for education,? says Jim Gartland SJ. ?Existing high schools were overcrowded and located in areas with heavy gang activity, with high drop-out rates.? So in 1996, Cristo Rey Jesuit High School was born to make private education available to poor people. The inevitable funding problem was solved in a novel way: businesses were asked to provide a work position to be filled by five students, each one working a day per week. The salary helps to pay for the tuition while the student gains work experience and learns about life outside the neighbourhood. The participation of the corporate sector has outstripped all expectations, allowing enrolment to grow from 85 to 500 in five years. The Corporate Internship Programme and a bilingual curriculum in English and Spanish prepare graduates of Cristo Rey for full integration in the civic, productive and cultural life of the United States. See www.jesuits-chi.org [HL10805]