When did you get your first job? Ask that question to students at the Christ the King College Preparatory School on Chicago’s west side, and their answers will be roughly the same.
They were only freshman. Starting at age 14, ninth graders at this co-ed Jesuit school officially join the professional world and start working one day per week.
“Students may work at a bank, or the Mayor’s office,” said Angela Abrams, the school’s admissions officer. “Instead of hiring entry-level employees, they hire 14-year-olds from Christ the King.”
Christ the King opened in 2008 with 120 students and now has 302 students enrolled.
Why does this school send its youths off to work at such a young age? First off, it fills an immediate need. The money these kids earn by working one day a week offsets their tuition at the school.
Second, the students get real-world work experience. They get to network. Their parents get a break on tuition.
But tuition at a school like that must be outlandish, right?
“It’s on a sliding scale,” Abrams said, adding that it is typically $50 to $100 a month. The school transports each student to and from their jobs. They are not boarded, but they are kept safe.
It’s a place where kids can go to get off the streets, to get away from Chicago’s gun violence, and actually learn a skill.
“This is a school for career-minded kids,” Abrams said.
For admittance to Christ the King, the school examines each student’s application, along with their report cards from seventh and eighth grade. Their parents are also interviewed.
As Chicago continues on a record year of violence and community leaders look for solutions, economics and jobs should be part of the discussion.
Kids living on Chicago’s west side need work experience, and Christ the King is putting them to work. They may not all tell you they need Jesus, but they need Christ the King.
David Parrish is executive producer at CBS in Chicago. He’s a graduate of Central Michigan and a guest lecturer at Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business.