Father Tim Manatt, S. J.,
president of Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Minneapolis
Students earn tuition, prepare for college
and for work in Cristo Rey program A
Civic CaucusFocus on CompetitivenessInterview December 6, 2013
Dave Broden (vice chair), Pat Davies, Paul Gilje (coordinator), Sallie
Kemper, Fr. Tim Manatt, Dana Schroeder, Clarence Shallbetter, Fred
Zimmerman. By phone: Audrey Clay, Janis Clay, Dan
According to Father Tim
Manatt, S.J., Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Minneapolis operates a
unique work/study program that helps prepare low-income and immigrant
students for college and the workforce. The school, which opened in
2007, is part of a national network of 26 Cristo Rey schools, all of
which are Catholic and college preparatory, include a corporate
work/study component and serve exclusively low-income families. The
320 students at the Minneapolis school are 97 percent students of
color and 94 percent quality for free or reduced lunch.
After a summer orientation to workplace behavior and skills, all
Cristo Rey students, freshmen through seniors, work one day a week and
one Friday a month during the school year at an entry-level job. Most
jobs are at Twin Cities businesses, with a few at nonprofit
organizations. Four students share one position and each student earns
wages that pay more than half the $13,500 cost of his or her
education. Families also make an average contribution to the school of
$850 per year. The remaining costs of the students' education are
covered through donations to the school.
Manatt, president of the school, reports that 95 percent of the
student's employers say the students meet or exceed their
expectations, bringing energy and vitality to the workplace. The work
experience exposes the students to different careers, broadens their
perspective on the world, helps them get to know themselves well
through formal work evaluations, and teaches them to become advocates
Cristo Rey closely
follows and supports its graduates, 75 percent of whom are now in
college. Manatt says most are doing well, many better than their ACT
scores might predict, which he attributes both to the school's
intensive academic emphasis on core subjects and to skills the
students have learned in the workplace.
Father Tim Manatt, S.J., is president of
Rey Jesuit High School in South Minneapolis, a position he has had for
four years. He is a priest and a member of the Society of Jesus (the
Jesuits), a missionary and teaching order in the Catholic Church. He
has deep roots in Iowa
and is a graduate of Grinnell College. As part of his Jesuit training,
Manatt studied at Creighton, Fordham, and Santa Clara Universities,
and served as dean of students at Red
Cloud High School on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in
On Sundays, he assists the pastors of Assumption Parish in Richfield
and St. Stephen's Parish in
with Spanish-speaking Masses. Manatt lives with nine other Jesuits in
a community near the Midtown Exchange/Global Market.
Rey Jesuit High School in Minneapolis, which opened in 2007, is a
private, Catholic, college-preparatory high school exclusively for
under-resourced students. Father Tim
Manatt, S.J., president of the school, which is located in the Colin
Powell Center at 4th Avenue and Lake Street in south
Minneapolis, said the school's mission is to offer opportunities to
low-income and immigrant families, who have very limited options for
private, Catholic education.
Cristo Rey is part of a
national network of 26 Cristo Rey schools. The Network's mission
is to overcome the academic, financial, and socio-cultural challenges
facing low-income high school students for secondary and postsecondary
success. In 2009, the Cristo Rey Network launched an initiative that
seeks to formalize relationships with colleges and universities
committed to ensuring college success for Cristo Rey and other
low-income students. The Network also holds an annual summit to
showcase promising research, programs, and practices that have
enhanced college success for Cristo Rey Network students and alumni.
The summit includes leaders from Cristo Rey high schools, university
partners, researchers, and thought partners from the field.
Cristo Rey schools have four basic elements:
All are Catholic and approved by the local bishop. Not all are Jesuit;
sponsored by other orders of priests, brothers or nuns.
All are college preparatory.
All students work one day a week and one Friday a month. The corporate
program is a central component to a Cristo Rey school.
All serve exclusively low-income families. The income ceiling is
roughly $12,000 per
capita in a family.
The first Cristo Rey school opened in Chicago in 1996, in response to
the large influx of Mexican immigrant families to the city's near
South Side. An
educational consultant working with the school's founder suggested
having all the students work one day a week at paid jobs. The school
had to get an exemption from the U.S. Department of Labor to have 14-
and 15-year-olds work.
Cristo Rey model was born in Chicago out of the need of Mexican
immigrant families and the willingness of the Chicago business
community to embrace the idea," Manatt said. "It caught the attention
of the Bill and Melinda
Gates Foundation in 2000 for the model's uniqueness, its innovation
and its sustainability."
The Gates Foundation gave $20 million for the Cristo Rey model to be
replicated up to 10 times, by providing seed money and first-year
The first city where it was replicated was
Oregon, in 2001. Then Los Angeles, Cleveland and Denver opened Cristo
Rey schools. The Minneapolis school was in the largest cohort of
Cristo Rey schools that opened in 2007, which also included Baltimore
and Tacoma Park, Maryland; Newark, New Jersey; Omaha; Indianapolis;
and Birmingham, Alabama.
Manatt said the Gates Foundation did not continue its school
replication grant past its original $20 million grant, although it has
continued its engagement through lesser grants for the sake of
improving academic standards and ACT scores across the Network.
However, the Walton Family Foundation is now involved. He said the
Network is likely to expand again soon. Columbus, Ohio, opened a
Cristo Rey school this year and
and San Jose will open in August 2014. The next schools under
discussion are in San Antonio and Milwaukee. The Cristo Rey Network
will probably reach 40 schools in the next 10 years and maybe 50 in
the 10 years after that, he said.
Nationally, less than 15 percent of African American and Hispanic
students graduate from high school and college within 10 years.
Manatt said the graduation rate for Hispanic students in the Twin
Citiesmetro area is 45 percent and is similar for African American
Cristo Rey is one concrete response to that situation.
"Our school is offering opportunities, especially to Latino and
African American students in the Twin Cities," he said. The school has
97 percent students of color: 70 percent Latino; 25 percent African
American and African immigrant; and five percent Asian, Native
American or white. Seventy-two percent of the students are
Minneapolis residents and 94 percent qualify for free or reduced-cost
Enrollment at the school is now 320; last year it was 295. Manatt said
the school's "sweet spot" would be about 450. He said the number of
graduates each year has been 62 students, 55 students and 47 students.
Next spring it should be in the 60s and by 2015 it will be 70-plus.
There are 112 freshmen this year, which is a 10 percent increase over
the previous year. "We're getting the younger sibling and cousin
effect," he said. Risen
Christ School, Kipp Academy, Minneapolis Academy, and Aurora Charter
School, all in Minneapolis, have become feeder schools for Cristo Rey.
addition to Manatt, the president (or headmaster), there are two other
Jesuits at the school: one full-time teacher and one who works with
faculty and adults in faith formation. There are 23 full-time faculty
members and a leadership team of eight administrators, including a
principal and an executive director of the Corporate Work Study
Cristo Rey has an application process and turns down 20 percent of its
With its size and funding, Manatt said the school cannot serve most
students with special needs requiring special education. The school
can take a child with Asperger's Syndrome, but not those with more
serious diagnoses on the autism spectrum. The building can accommodate
children with physical limitations. "We can't serve everyone," he
said. "We're taking some pretty significant risks on a lot of kids and
a lot of families. If anything, there's been pressure to increase the
academic standards in admissions."
take very few transfer students, because the culture of work is
something that really needs to be ingrained and learned at an early
age," Manatt said. "We look for academic behaviors, things like
homework performance and attendance."
Seventy-five percent of Cristo Rey's graduates are now in college.
"We have 162 graduates; 122 of them are in college and four are in the
active U.S. military. Of the 36 not in college currently, half of them
have completed at least one semester of college. Overall, the
postsecondary progress of our graduates is about five times the
national average with these demographics," Manatt said.
said the school employs a full-time person to support its graduates,
offering logistical and emotional support. "We visit all of our
graduates who go to college on their college campuses before
Thanksgiving in their freshman year," he said. Manatt makes some of
those visits himself.
"That jump from high school to college, especially if you go away, is
much larger than many of us can imagine," he said. It's a large
emotional burden if a student from an immigrant family has always
acted as the interpreter for his or her mother and then goes away to
college. Besides offering emotional support, the school also offers
families assistance through the college and financial-aid application
"Both in the college counseling process and in the graduate support,"
Manatt said, "I can boldly and legitimately say that no school in the
Twin Cities takes as much an interest in its graduates as Cristo Rey.
We can tell you where every one of those 162 graduates are, what
they're doing, how they're doing and what's the next move they're
contemplating, because we 'hound' them and they come back to our
Cristo Rey students concentrate on core subjects.
Manatt said the school doesn't offer electives and Advanced Placement
classes. The students come to the school on average at least one grade
level behind, especially in reading and math. "We need to have them on
their core subjects: math, science, English, social studies and world
language," he said. In the freshman year, the students get a double
dose of math and English, because the state requires only three years
of social studies.
students' average ACT score is rising, but it's not yet to 20, while
22 is considered college ready. He said despite the lower ACT scores,
the vast majority of the students are doing "quite well" in college.
"This is where the corporate work/study comes into play," he said.
Cristo Rey students don't participate in the state's Postsecondary
Educational Options (PSEO) program. PSEO
allows high school sophomores, juniors and seniors to take classes at
any postsecondary institution in
Minnesota. Manatt said the school has lost a few students because it
doesn't participate in PSEO. "Our principal is more than ambivalent
regarding PSEO," he said. "We have maybe six kids in each senior class
who could legitimately take part in something like that."
Cristo Rey's 320 students fill 80 full-time equivalent work/study
positions, since four students share a single job.
Of those jobs, Manatt said, 72 positions are paid and the other eight
are in nonprofit placements. The students receive no pay individually;
all the wages go directly to the school. Students are employees of the
school and the companies contract with the school to fill full-time,
entry-level jobs. "The job is not charity and it's not a corporate
contribution," Manatt said. "If the students weren't doing the work
they're doing, United Health Group, for example, would have to hire
someone else." All students, from freshmen through seniors, work at a
company pays $29,000 for the work that four students are collectively
doing, so they're each earning $7,250 towards their education. He said
$2,088,000 out of the school's $4.4 million budget comes from wages
for the work/study jobs. In addition to each student's wages of
$7,250, each family contributes an average of $850 to the school each
year. The cost of educating a student is $13,500 a year, so the wages
plus the family contributions cover about 55 percent of that cost.
sustainability model is based on growing enrollment and full
employment," he said. The four largest employers are United Health
Group, General Mills, Health Partners and U.S. Bank. The General Mills
Foundation also contributes to the school financially.
Cristo Rey's whole program is set up to accommodate the work/study
Manatt explained that each student works one set day a week between
Monday and Thursday and one Friday a month. He said none of the
students misses any classes. The system is set up so that, for
example, all of a sophomore English teacher's students are gone on the
same day. He said Cristo Rey's school year is longer and its school
day is longer than traditional schools.
Manatt noted that all students come to the school each day, many
riding the school's eight buses from pickup points in suburban
Minneapolis locations, St. Paul and West St. Paul. He said Cristo Rey
is not a neighborhood school: only 20 percent of the students walk or
come by city bus. After the students arrive at school, four of the
eight buses stay and take the students to work. There are also
minivans to take the students to outlying work locations. The students
take public transportation to get home from work.
The school runs a three-week work/study orientation in the summer for
incoming freshmen and transferring sophomores.
The workshop includes a skills assessment and coaching on things like
making a good first impression, workplace ethics, appropriate
conversation, how to answer the phone, hygiene, dress, how to address
someone and how to take constructive criticism. The students receive
formal evaluations and turn in time sheets. The school gives
employee-of-the-month awards, one to a lower classman and one to an
Manatt said the students are allowed one missed workday each semester.
Starting with two missed days, they have to make up their days at
work, because they are employees. Some students have been fired from
their jobs or the school has had to retrain them right before they
were about to get fired.
Ninety-five percent of the students' employers say the students meet
or exceed their expectations.
"They say our kids bring energy and vitality to the workplace," Manatt
said. The companies comment that the freshmen are too quiet and
sheepish, but the sophomores are "remarkably confident."
said the students' workplace experience begins to expose them to
different careers and how various fields of study might lead to
different types of jobs. "Being in a workplace broadens students'
perspective on so many things," he said. "Of the many skills our
students are learning, so many of them are interpersonal. Through
their work experience and the frequent evaluations, they learn to know
themselves extraordinarily well. They become advocates for themselves.
Our kids' world gets big, because they've interacted with people with
college and master's degrees, people who've been in the Peace Corps,
people who've been around the world."
interviewer asked if demand from businesses is high enough to push the
school to expand. Manatt said the school expects to increase
enrollment by 20 to 25 students each year for the next four years. For
every increase of four students, the school needs a new work/study
job, either by adding jobs within existing companies or adding new
companies, such as Target and Cargill, which joined this year. "For
us, it's a question of getting our name out and convincing companies
to take a risk on teenagers," he said.
The work/study program is hard to duplicate. An
interviewer asked if there were any other schools in the Twin Cities
interested in using the work/study model. "You have to have
faith-based philanthropy, businesses that will work with you and a
corporate work/study program inside yourschool that is an employment
agency for teenagers," Manatt said. "How many schools can create
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