The concept of having students work to earn their tuition was borne of financial necessity. Children like Muñoz are desperate to escape the gangs and low expectations of big city public schools, but few can afford the full cost of a private education.
Over the past decade, though, members of the Cristo Rey network have discovered that requiring students to work does more than keep tuition low. It teaches children that there’s life beyond high school, with its teen-centered obsessions on things that don’t matter. It teaches them that working hard can help them get ahead—a lesson students from far nicer areas than the Pilsen/Little Village neighborhood could stand to learn, too. The model has helped revive Catholic inner-city education, and it offers some lessons for education more broadly. Anyone can create one school that works. The Cristo Rey Network has hit upon one of the few education models that can actually be replicated with reasonable success. It seems to be working everywhere it’s been tried.
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