The state of education in Detroit continues to draw increasing attention. There are few issues that are as important, so that is a good thing. However, the attention continues to focus on the negatives and the many positive solutions are relatively unnoticed. At Detroit Cristo Rey High School, we feel we are one of the growing number of bright spots on the educational landscape.
Detroit Cristo Rey is a co-educational, Catholic college prep high school located in southwest Detroit. We are a relatively new school; we had our first graduation June 2012 and are beginning our fifth year. We are sponsored by the IHM Sisters and the Basilian Fathers.
Our mission is to provide high level education to students who cannot afford to pay for private school. We actually have family income limits on our students. We are proud to be an unusually exclusive school, if you can afford to attend Cristo Rey -- well, you can't come to Cristo Rey. Over 90 percent of our students qualify for free or reduced lunch under federal poverty guidelines. It is a wonderful mission, and maybe the world's worst business model.
We are part of a network of 25 Cristo Rey schools across the country and each of us makes this work because of our unique work study program -- where our students work entry level administrative and clerical jobs at leading organizations around metro Detroit, including General Motors, Oakwood Hospital, DTE, Art Van and over 85 other corporations committed to making a difference. Last year, our students earned over $1,125,000 toward their education. Eventually, when we have full enrollment, approximately 60 percent of our funding will come from work fees. Once a company becomes a work sponsor, they stay a sponsor. Each year, over 85 percent of our work sponsors renew their contracts!
The work experience is transformational for our students. They learn the importance of meeting deadlines, effective communication skills and many other key life skills. Importantly, they learn about the exciting opportunities that exist for them once they become a college graduate. I believe it is impossible to overestimate the impact it has on our students.
The results that our students have achieved are noteworthy. Last year was our first year with seniors. We started the school year with 46 seniors and every one of the seniors graduated in June! More impressively, all 100 percent of our graduates were accepted to at least one two- or four-year college or university. This fall, Detroit Cristo Rey alumni are beginning their college careers at the University of Michigan, Wayne State University, Adrian College, Henry Ford Community College, Marygrove College and many other fine institutions.
Our students are continuing their academic careers despite the fact that most entered our school one or two years behind academic standards. The work experience combined with an outstanding academic team helped them become young adults with the confidence and academic skills to succeed in college and beyond.
People are often surprised when they learn about the achievements of Detroit Cristo Rey students. They often ask how can we offer more students the same opportunity. The answer is simple; we are only limited by the number of organizations that are willing to hire our students. If a company or organization wants to have an immediate impact on education in Detroit, they simply need to hire a Detroit Cristo Rey student to perform work tasks within their organization. It will be the best investment they will every make in a student and the in the city of Detroit.
Join panelist Michael Khoury, Model D and HuffPost Detroit Wednesday, Aug. 29 at YouthVille Detroit for a free speaker series on Innovation in Education.