“I became more confident:” Cristo Rey Jesuit High School students getting real-world work experience

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MILWAUKEE -- During a school year, a group of Milwaukee high school students go through a major character transformation. At the same time, the students could have an impact on poverty in the city.

U.S. BankSharon Chavez is in ninth grade at Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Milwaukee. But she has nearly a year of corporate experience under her belt. She works in U.S. Bank's Wealth Management and Securities Division.

"I became more confident with myself, became more professional," said Chavez.

Cristo Rey Jesuit High School has a "Corporate Work Study Program." Dozens of local businesses are partners with the school. Each student works a full day, one day a week -- earning a salary to offset the cost of their education.

It is an experience the kids are proud of.

"We are a minority family. We don't have much. I am going to be the first child to finish high school or the first one to go to college," said Chavez.

Before the students even set foot in their office building, they go through a four-week business training camp class through Cristo Rey Jesuit. It's like a crash course in learning how to be a business professional.

Sharon Chavez

Her job is grooming Chavez for a career in finance -- and giving her the potential to make a difference.

"We have them go through all the same training all the full-time professionals complete," said Kerri Guse, U.S. Bank senior HR business partner.

"In time, when these students graduate college and get their own careers, that will start breaking the cycle of inter-generational poverty," said Joe Mazza, director of the corporate work study program at Cristo Rey Jesuit.

The students have the option to continue their work during winter break and summer break. In that case, their salary for the time period is theirs to keep.

All eight students working at U.S. Bank this year plan to work through the summer.