Wednesday June 15, 2016

My Summer at Cristo Rey

By Joe Twiner

The last day of school brings with it the hope of the unexpected, the joy of momentary freedom from strict schedules, and the release of pressure after a hard school year filled with unexpected challenges and victories. For me a college student, this came about five weeks ago. However, for the students at a small Catholic school in downtown Atlanta, this day did not come until last week.


Cristo Rey Atlanta Jesuit High school educates the underserved youth of Atlanta. Each student comes from a family who is often struggling to pay its way through this world, and as such every student at this school qualify for free or reduced lunch. Some students travel an hour to get here via train, bus, or car. Only in its second year, Cristo Rey is continuing to grow and develop, adding another class of freshman next year. The students face rigorous academic classes, long school days, and an extended school year.  They also spend five days a month at a corporate work study position to help pay for their education. The company pays the school  which decreases the standard expenses of a Catholic education. This work study position provides the students with meaningful work experiences at some of the world's top companies and allows them to build connections and meet professionals who will hopefully inspire them to go to college.


This last part is where I can help. This summer I am working as an intern in the corporate work study department of the school. My duties are at times tedious: scanning, copying, data entry, etc. However, I also have had the chance to do some awesome work. These students truly are amazing. At the young age of fourteen some of these students are going off to work for Fortune 500 Companies. They grow so much in just one year, and I luckily got to see the end result: students who are so confident that they will come up to a stranger (me, during my first week there), shake my hand, look me in the eye, and introduce themselves. They are kind to one another and to the staff, even if they do give the faculty and staff a hard time every now and then.


They make me want to be a teacher even more. Every day as I wake up earlier than the sun, put on a tie older than myself (thank you dad for the ties), and ride a crowded train, I want to be a teacher more. I have seen chaos of the copy room around finals, the pandemonium of a lunchroom filled with hungry teenagers, and the long hours that the faculty work. I want to be a teacher more because I see a spark of hope in every student. I see the possibility that I might make a small change which creates a steady flow of ripples turning into waves and these waves create a just people and a just society.

 

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