Atlanta’s Top Firms Draft Cristo Rey Atlanta Students for Work-Study Program

John Tabellione

Tuesday, September 8th, 2015

A Who’s Who of 72 Atlanta-based companies, including Coca-Cola, The Home Depot, Emory Healthcare, Alton & Bird LLP, Delta Airlines, First Data and several other top-tier firms, recently participated in the Cristo Rey Atlanta Jesuit High School, second annual “Draft Day.” All 278 ninth and tenth grade students will be involved in a work-study program with these companies throughout the school year.


As Cristo Rey President, Bill Garrett, explained in a previous article on this site, “In exchange for performing meaningful clerical and administrative tasks, such as data entry, filing, scanning, mail delivery, event planning and reception duties, the participating companies pay Cristo Rey under a separately incorporated employee leasing program. The fees offset a major portion of the tuition of the individuals. The firms may then deduct those costs as a business expense.”  

The private, college prep school for students of limited economic means is one of the newer academies in the unique, 19-year-old network of 30 other Cristo Rey schools in the U.S., according to Principal, Fr. James R. Van Dyke, S.J.  

Cristo Rey’s demographics portray quite a diverse enrollment: only 48% of the student body is Catholic; the overwhelming majority of students are Hispanic or African-American; only 4% come from Catholic schools; all come from disadvantaged economic circumstances.  


WAGA-TV news anchor, Russ Spencer, acted as “Commissioner” for the Draft event, held at the neighboring All Saints Episcopal Church due to the size of the over-flow crowd. 

After Spencer addressed each corporate partner’s turn in the Draft and their company description, one-by-one, Pierre Monette, Assistant Dean of Students, announced the names of the Draft picks. Each group of four selected students then proceeded to the front of the church where they met company officials, shook hands and posed for pictures. All of the business partners presented gift bags containing company caps, t-shirts, and other apparel, to their new part-time employees. 

Garrett concluded the ceremony by congratulating the students and thanking the companies for their participation, after which he and Fr. Van Dyke hosted a reception back at Cristo Rey. 


When interviewed at the Draft ceremony, Chris Keysor, President and CEO of Lenbrook, the first and only not-for-profit, Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) located in Buckhead Atlanta to achieve national accreditation, offered his rationale for becoming a partner with Cristo Rey Atlanta Jesuit High School. “One of our three organizational goals is for us to be a leader in the community as good corporate citizens. Furthermore, we’re interested in hiring people, whether full-time, or in this case, part-time students, who are engaged: competent, caring and responsive. The Cristo Rey model certainly fits well into our program goals.”

From the perspective of Lenbrook’s residents, many of whom continue to lead active lives as board members, or participate in community clubs, Keysor added, “We have a wealth of knowledge in our resident body. They, too, want to be engaged. The seniors and the students can both benefit from the interaction. 

“We plan to have the pupils work in our Concierge department where they would front face with our residents. Others may help us in marketing roles, whether conducting interviews for DVDs, or doing resident satisfaction experience surveys. These younger generation workers can also add value in the area of Hunan Resources and even IT, possibly assisting the residents with digital and electronic device issues.”

Lastly, from a long-range perspective, Keysor believes that exposing the high school teens to the senior living industry, may entice them to consider working in this field once their schooling is completed. “Students who are engaged and have initiative, would fit well into our associate development program. We’re always looking for younger people for the future who have a passion for serving seniors. The Cristo Rey students would make ideal candidates.”


Many of the students, smartly dressed in their school uniforms, complete with yellow and blue striped ties, appeared excited about their new jobs and took the reception opportunity to connect with visitors and guests. Some spoke of their ambitions, such as becoming an aeronautical engineer, or attending top-ranked universities and law schools, while others took pictures for the school yearbook. One student spoke of her 14-hour school day, awakening at 5:00 a.m., and returning home at 7:00 p.m. because of her long commute in traffic. In order to make up for the five school days per month that each student spends working, and still meet state education attendance requirements, Cristo Rey’s school days are longer, as is the academic year.

The pupils were fresh from a two-week “Business Training Institute” session that sharpened both their professional “soft and hard skills,” from offering a firm handshake, looking people in the eye when speaking, knotting a tie correctly to answering the phones, filing, copying and scanning. 

Garrett summarized by saying, “With our business partner model, we hope we can show that low-income kids can get a quality prep school education that will prepare them for college and life. We’re thankful for the partners we have that will benefit low-income students, who should also have the opportunity to become highly educated workers and leaders of the future, perhaps for many of these same partner companies.”

About John Tabellione

John Tabellione is an award-winning, professional business writer, complemented by over twenty-five years of strategic communication responsibilities as a Marketing, New Business Development and National Account Sales Executive in consumer goods and commercial industries. 

Experience with Fortune 500 companies, as well as with smaller firms and non-profits, encompassing a variety of products, including those of Georgia-Pacific, Kimberly-Clark and Stanley Works. 

John has a B.A. in English from Fairfield University and an MBA in Marketing from the University of Hartford. In addition, he has studied Russian at the Defense Language Institute at Syracuse University, and Italian language and culture at Kennesaw State University.