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Cristo's SOS to employers

By Máirtín Ó Muilleoir

Use Fr. Joseph Parkes jpg with caption: Fr. Joseph Parkes is appealing to employers.

A trailblazing New York City school principal is calling for business leaders to join him in "transforming urban America into a place of hope rather than despair."

Fr. Joseph Parkes of Cristo Rey school in East Harlem is appealing for more employers to enlist in the school's unique work study program, under which every student must spend one-day-per-week in the workplace.

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With New York still battling the downturn, some traditionally supportive employers have had to pass on this year's intake, says the school.

"Cristo Rey's Corporate Work Study Program transforms the lives of our students," said Fr. Parkes.

"Their experiences in the corporate world enable them to envision the futures that are possible for them if they succeed in school. The students' motivation to do well in school increases by leaps and bounds and our job sponsors are invariably pleased with the students' performance."

"The program," Parkes said, "gives employers a concrete way to take part in the educational reform movement sweeping the country and transforming urban America into a place of hope rather than despair."

An honoree at the Irish Echo's Black and Green Awards last year, Fr. Parkes took up the reins at the 365-pupil Cristo Rey school after retiring as principal of Fordham Prep.

School Director Brian Heese said 40 students still needed placements.

"Each student works one day per week, so I need about eight full-time positions," he said.

While many blue-chip companies participate in the program by providing entry type office jobs for the students, work study sponsors also include small insurance agencies and technology consulting franchises, added Heese.

Anyone interested in becoming a sponsor can contact Brian Heese at bheese@cristoreyny.org or phone (646) 345-1808.