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Transforming the Future: The Incredible Educational Journey of Four Students at CRJ

While every blog entry in Sprouting Forward is special, this week's feature is particularly monumental. Typically, we highlight our En Root writers, however for this round, we are featuring spectacular students from Cristo Rey Jesuit High School.

CRJ is known for their Corporate Internship Program- an integral part of the curriculum that immerses students into corporate experiences, from Freshman year all the way through Senior year. As advocates for the power of immersive learning at OutGrowth, we continue to be impressed by CRJ's initiatives.

And what better way to learn about the value of this stellar program, than through hearing the stories of four Cristo Rey students? Driven, dedicated and about to take off to do even greater things, these students are shining examples of what it means to intentionally chart your own meaningful life path. We couldn't be more honored to share their words with you here.

If you'd like to learn more about this amazing program, be sure to check out Cristo Rey's spotlight in this latest issue of En Root, featuring John Busse, the Director of the Corporate Internship Program at CRJ.

Happy reading!

Brayan Perez ('19) working on a design project with his corporate internship supervisor

Tell us about your educational journey to date.

Keon R. ‘20 (KR) - The corporate internship program (CIP) provides all four grades at Cristo Rey with the opportunity to work at corporate internships. I have worked at The Arc Baltimore, The Whiting Turner Contracting Company, and now, at Stanley Black & Decker in the materials engineering lab.

Kendall L. ‘20 (KL) - I’ve worked at Ernst & Young and now at Mercy Medical Center for the past three years. I’ve remained dedicated by focusing on my long-term goals. My goal is to become a doctor - to get a bachelor’s degree and go to medical school.

Keidy R. ‘20 (KRey) - Freshman year, I worked at Reading Partners. During my sophomore year, I worked at the Maryland State Department of Assessments and Taxation. During my junior year, I worked at Mercy Medical Center. Now in my senior year, I work at Erickson Living. My motivation is my family, my school, and my friends, but I've realized that I have to do it for myself, not for other people.

Estefania G. ‘20 (EG) - Freshman year, I worked at Kelly & Associates. During my sophomore year, I was at Mercy Medical Center. During my junior year, I worked at The Whiting-Turner Contracting Company, and now in my senior year, I work at UMMC. Through school and CIP, I had to learn how to multitask and prioritize. I also learned how to network at my job and in school. I used to be the type of student who got the work done to pass, but now I’m the type of student who will do the work to pass, but also learn and apply it outside and really challenge myself. I think that the CIP helped me balance out my education experience and work experience.

At OutGrowth, we are committed to giving access. Talk to us about your take on the importance of providing access to immersive opportunities.

KR - It’s very important because it prepares you and gives you some sort of insight into what the corporate world is like. It gives students insight into what is best for them. I learned that working in a cubicle is just not for me. Working at Whiting-Turner and Stanley Black and Decker, I learned I like to be active and hands-on.

EG - The work experience is really important for people my age to be exposed to, because we start at a younger age knowing what we want to do. We're given a more competitive side to us. We’re a step ahead of other college students.

KL -Work experience shows you that once you go outside of these four walls and into the real world, you have to take what you learn in high school and apply it to the workforce. Being exposed that early gives you more experience of what to do in those situations.

Corey Johnson ('21) working with his supervisor and a patient at his corporate internship at Mercy Medical Center

Tell us about a pinnacle point or moment when immersive/experiential learning had an impact on your life.

KR - When I was at Whiting Turner on my first day, they were designing a building for the Ronald McDonald House. Now, to see that fully complete, I think “Wow, I was there during the design process.” Now, at Stanley Black & Decker, some of the tools I work on I now see on TV commercials - everywhere I go. That’s really interesting.

KL - My pinnacle moment was at a Johns Hopkins summer job. I worked in the Center for Diversity and Inclusion this past year and they were telling me how my work ethic was a lot better than that of the college students, and that I came more prepared and professional. I felt like all of that came from being in the workplace virtually all throughout the school year at Cristo Rey. They teach us the way to dress, the way to interact with each other and how to interact at work. That was my moment of seeing that the corporate internship program has really had a big impact on me.

How did this experience change the course of your life or your outlook?

KR - This experience gave me insight into what engineering is, while also giving me insight into what corporate America is like. In Baltimore City, a lot of kids like me don’t have that experience or prior knowledge about engineering, so to be working at Stanley Black & Decker or Whiting-Turner… there are people like me who have gone through the process and if they can do it, I can do it. The reason I wanted to be in the automotive industry is because of Ed Welburn, who was the former head of design at General Motors. The fact that he looks just like me gave me motivation - look what he’s doing.

EG - One of the major lessons I learned at CIP and Cristo Rey was stepping out of my comfort zone. That pushed me to do better as a person and build my character. Cristo Rey really has a lot of resources to help you, and I think it’s really prepared me for life.

KL - It bettered my outlook on life because I never really thought about how much work it takes to be a doctor or how much time it takes, but CIP showed me no good things come without hard work. If you don't work hard now to get the opportunities and exposure, it's going to be really hard. So take every opportunity, whether good or bad, and use it to your advantage.

KRey - Before CRJ and CIP, I had the mindset of school, school, school, but then I realized growing up that there was more to life. You have to socialize and network. That gave me more opportunities and more personal growth.

Joy Sanders ('19) interning in the IT department at CBRE

What are your top pieces of advice for other students who are looking to find ways to get involved in immersive learning opportunities within their day-to-day?

KR -

1. Any experience is good experience.

2. Make sure that you work in a field you like.

3. Try to build bonds with those at your CIP internships, because you never know who you will come into contact with.

EG -

1. Step out of your comfort zone; I don't necessarily mean do something dramatic, but little things count too.

2. If you want to change for the better, make sure you figure out who you are. You can’t do that if you only have one perspective.

3. You need to step out and get to know other people, and learn about different aspects of life. That way, you're growing as a person.

KL -

1. Jump in head-first. I know you’re going to be afraid at first, but try not to be afraid because they’re there to help you, and there to teach you.

2. Take constructive criticism. "You did this but you could have done this better." The next time you’ll know so you can do it better, and keep getting better and better.

KRey -

1. Trust the process, because you’re not going to get everything handed to you.

2. I think you're going to learn a lot of challenges along the way. You should build off of that and not give up.

Looking back, what is the biggest thing you have learned from your time and experiences at Cristo Rey?

KR - Learn from observation, especially from those in a higher position from you. You can learn to do their job.

Melissa Mushayuma ('21) reviewing a chart with her internship supervisor at Brown Advisory

What is your favorite quote?

KR - My favorite quote pertains to social justice: “To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time. ” Being a black man in America, you have to walk through the world differently. For me, I have to carry myself in a certain way. A lot of people come with a preconceived notion about you, so you have to try to be someone else so that they don’t see you like that.

EG - My favorite quote is, "One of the happiest moments ever is when you find the courage to let go of what you can't change." Sometimes you can't control what happened, and instead of trying to go after something, it's best to let go.

Based on your immersive experience to date, what are the top skills that you believe will set you apart after you graduate?

KR - How to carry myself in a corporate setting; learning the different types of engineering; knowing how to effectively build a social network

KL - Perseverance, dedication, and work ethic. If you don’t work hard, things don’t come your way.

EG - The biggest skill is networking. Learning how to network is really important, because you want to be the person that stands out in a work environment and you want people to notice you. That way, you have different connections. That’s really helped me, because in my job my sophomore year, I was really intimidated by everyone. I talked to Mr. Mark and I was telling him how I had an interest in engineering. Each day I talked to him, I started building up a relationship. He helped me get a job my junior year at Whiting-Turner. We never know who has connections and where it’s going to take us.

KRey - Communication skills

Chloe LaRue ('21) at Mercy Medical Center with employee (and CRJ alum) Maria Velazquez ('16)

What's next? What are your next steps toward growth in 2020?

KR - In college, I hope to double major in political science and mechanical or electrical engineering. I want to work in the automotive industry, but also in city government. I want to change the things that affect my community. Communities of color in Baltimore have been deprived of various resources. Giving back to my community so it can grow economically is important to me. So far, I’ve gotten into four schools. I just had my interview for Morehouse College and coming up, I have my interview at Brown.

EG- I plan to attend a four-year university and graduate in four years. I want to challenge myself to double major. I want to keep growing as a person and step out of my comfort zone. I want to join new clubs and sports in college. I want a job where I feel like I am making a difference in Baltimore City and helping young students like me.

KL - What's next for me is I will hopefully be attending Saint Joseph's University in the fall of 2020, graduating in 2024 with a Bachelors of Science in Interdisciplinary Health Services. After, I would like to go to medical school and become a cardiologist.

About the Students of CRJ

Keon R. ‘20 (KR) is a student intern at Stanley Black & Decker. His work experience at CRJ has also included internships in the finance office at The Arc Baltimore, and at The Whiting-Turner Contracting Company. Keon is also a twin, passionate about social justice, and inspired to help affect change in communities of color in Baltimore. So far, Keon has earned acceptances into four colleges and has interviews with Morehouse College and Brown University.

Kendall L. ‘20 (KL) is a student intern at Mercy Medical Center. His work experience at CRJ has also included a job at Ernst & Young, and a summer experience through the Johns Hopkins summer work program. Kendall aspires to be a cardiologist. He plans to pursue his undergraduate degree at Saint Joseph's University.

Estefania G. ‘20 (EG) is a student intern at UMMC. She’s also interned at Kelly & Associates, Mercy Medical Center, and The Whiting-Turner Contracting Company. Estefania plans to go to a four-year college where she can continue to step out of her comfort zone and grow. Eventually, she would like to have a job where she is helping other young people, making a difference in Baltimore City.

Keidy R. ‘20 (KRey) - is a student intern at Erickson Living. Keidy has a good deal of work experience, with past internships at Reading Partners, the Maryland State Department of Assessments and Taxation, and Mercy Medical Center. Keidy shared that when she started out, her motivation came from her family, school and friends, but now she’s learned that she has to work hard for herself.

Keidy, Estefania, Kendall, and Keon are all set to earn their diplomas from Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in June 2020.

Photography by Grant Gibson.


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