I had a wonderful time on the Alternative Break trip to Houston. I spent the majority of my time (three of our four days) serving at Cristo Rey Jesuit School, a high school started three years ago I low-income neighborhood of Houston.
The school is one of several Cristo Rey Jesuit schools in many American cities. The schools use a work-study program to cover the expenses of a private education. Low-income students must apply to be in the school, and they and their families must demonstrate a commitment to obtaining a better education. The high school emphasizes the importance of higher education and is college-prep focused. The work study program places students in large corporations, hospitals, and businesses all over the city and the students work one day a week, covering 70% of the cost of their tuition and they take classes the other four days a week. The program seems wonderful because it provides high school students with invaluable work experience and skills, and puts a direct perspective on the benefits of a college degree.
We served in various ways at the Cristo Rey School – we tutored students working on mission statements and resumes, organized the lab classroom, inventoried donations, and put together letters for a charity golf tournament.
We had a second great experience on the day that we spent at Genesys Works, a nonprofit organization which trains inner-city high school students in IT, accounting, and engineering and places them with internships at Fortune 500 companies.Genesys Works partners with the public schools in a co-op program, which allows students to attend a half day of school, taking core classes, and then spend the second half of their day at their internship. During our time at Genesys Works, we had the opportunity to meet a group of prospective applicants for the program for the upcoming year.
We did mock interviews with the students and worked on interview skills. It was wonderful to get to interact with students and learn about their lives. Both the Cristo Rey Jesuit School and Genesys Works had unique solutions to the complex issues in public education. Combined with what I learned on my Alternative Break in Birmingham next year, I felt this trip was a successful opportunity in learning more about educational issues and solutions, while serving the Houston community!