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Cristo Rey

Paula Friedrich / Michigan Radio

In Part One of our Connections documentary, we heard from a young mother in poverty who’s struggling to build a network out of nothing. So I thought I’d switch things up for a bit and talk to someone who is a pro at networking. Has one of the best networks around, at least in my circle of friends.

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

School is almost over for the year, and one Detroit high school has lots to celebrate. The entire graduating class has been accepted to college. Nearly all of the students live in poverty, and most of them are the first in their family to go to college. So what's the secret to their success? 

The school that works – literally.

Four days a week, Idalis Longoria does what pretty much all high school juniors do: She goes to school, takes notes in class, and hangs out with her friends in the cafeteria during lunchtime.

But on the fifth day of the week, Longoria trades in her Catholic school uniform for a pair of light-blue scrubs and makes her way around the birthing floor for her “rounds” at St. Mary’s Hospital near Detroit.

Believe it or not, her hospital rounds are her homework. See, Longoria, who’s 17 years old, goes to Cristo Rey. It’s a college prep catholic high school in Detroit, one of 25 around the country. The Cristo Rey schools are specifically for low-income kids who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford private school. The vast majority of students are either Hispanic, like Longoria, or black.

Here’s how it works: One day a week, beginning freshman year, the students go to work for a white-collar company – a law firm, say, or the information technology department at Chrysler. The company, in turn, agrees to pay most of the student’s school tuition.