High School Internship Partnership between Lenbrook and Cristo Rey High School

Lenbrook, Atlanta, GA

Challenge:

Lenbrook CEO, Chris Keysor, realized that the nation’s 21st century workforce challenge was the mismatch between the increasing number of people turning 65 and the shortage of people who could care for them. He was experiencing that personally as his own organization grappled with turnover, vacancies and challenges in attracting new staff. In 2015, coincidentally, Keysor was introduced to Bill Garett, President of Cristo Rey Atlanta, which is part of a network of 32 independent Catholic high schools in 21 states serving students from economically disadvantaged communities. he mission of Cristo Rey is to combine college prep classes along with 4 years of work experience that exposes students to jobs, role models, mentors, and the world beyond their neighborhoods so that they graduate prepared for college and life. Every student who graduates from a Cristo Rey school is accepted into college.

Solution:

In 2015, Lenbrook became one of 140 Cristo Rey corporate partners in the Atlanta region and began offering internships at Lenbrook to Cristo Rey’s high school students. By 2017, Lenbrook had sponsored 3 groups of 4 interns in its own community and had made introductions to 2 other life plan communities who then started their own partnership with the high school. Because of Lenbrook, 16 students are working in life plan communities this year.

Implementation Details:

Students attending Cristo Rey are expected to work one day of the week; the remaining 4 days are spent in class. The school teaches the students both soft (e.g., communication) and hard (PowerPoint, Excel, Word) skills and then works with partners to find out which skills they need. Students are placed based on their skill set and the Corporate Partners’ business needs. Students work with corporate partners the entire school year. They also have the option to work in the summer – and use their salaries to help pay for the next year’s tuition. The school has a waiver from the US Department of Labor, so their students, aged 14-18, are able to work at the various work study partner organizations.

At Lenbrook, the students have had jobs such as working in marketing, placing wake up calls, writing blogs, updating their website, Human Resources, the Health Center with Enrichment activities, Concierge and in the Hospitality Department assisting with online telephone surveys.

In the beginning, the organizations determined that one person should be the logistical and organizational point person between Lenbrook and Cristo Rey. This decision allowed the internship program to run very smoothly. The point person sets up specific trainings for managers to enable them to help incoming students in the following areas: overcoming shyness, understanding Lenbrook culture, modeling friendliness and correct language, setting expectations, challenging students with new environments within Lenbrook and eliminating downtime.

In addition, department managers work closely with the point person to find out how well the interns are being integrated into departments, e.g., are managers getting to know the students personally, does the manager know the strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes of their student interns?

Residents also play a part: at Lenbrook , on “Mentoring Mondays,” students are paired and have lunch with residents, all of whom have had a variety of careers and provide guidance, encouragement and advice.

Factors for Success:

  • Cristo Rey has 32 schools – 3 more on are on the way – and is in 21 states. Set up a structure to ensure students can be successful at your community
  • Find an internal champion at your organization
  • Help students find their passion – find meaningful work for them, e.g., “real jobs,” not just clerical or superficial tasks such as filing, etc. Although those tasks are important, students should be involved in contributing to the work load of the department
  • Stay in close touch with the managers who are working with the students

Outcomes:

  • The program allows Lenbrook to support local high school students from economically disadvantaged communities-- and supplement their staff
  • Lenbrook is profoundly changing these students lives by teaching them life lessons in a corporate environment, mentoring them and giving the students the opportunity to earn most of their tuition, creating a strong sense of self worth
  • Lenbrook is able to play a part in changing the perceptions of high school students about aging – and perhaps attract them later to the aging services workforce
  • Lenbrook has gotten practical information about this generation -- along with insights about what is important to them
  • The program allows involvement with a dynamic, successful high school: Cristo Rey graduates go to college at higher rates than high-income students and complete BA degrees at twice the rate of high school graduates from low-income families

Need more information?

Contact Cynthia Wassenar at 404 637-2876 or Lisa Woods.

Podcast on this topic: