It’s a good problem to have.

A record number of freshmen entering Cincinnati’s newest Catholic high school, DePaul Cristo Rey, means more corporate partners are needed for its work-study program, says Margee Garbsch, director of communications and marketing.

DePaul Cristo Rey is part of the national Cristo Rey network, with 30 schools around the country, serving families who want a private, college preparatory education for their children but can’t afford it without financial assistance.

Corporate partners are vital to the success of DePaul Cristo Rey High School’s mission because the school’s Corporate Work Study Program covers the majority of the tuition for the students that the school serves—those from low- to moderate-income families, says Garbsch.

“The way that we make our private education affordable is that all our students work,” she says. “So they go to school four days a week and then they work one day a week at one of our corporate partners.”

The students are employees of the Corporate Work Study Program, which handles all the payroll, taxes, workers compensation and Department of Labor issues. “The goal is to make it as seamless as possible for the employer,” says Garbsch.

Companies that partner with the school receive several benefits in return, says Lisa Claytor, director of the Corporate Work Study Program. “They are able to invest in the community by offering educational opportunity to low-income families and their students, and at the same time they’re promoting diversity and breaking the poverty cycle,” she says.

Plus, it just makes sense to the companies’ bottom line. Companies can hire DePaul Cristo Rey students for a better price than they can hire another person with benefits, says Claytor.

So why wouldn’t more companies want to partner with the school?

“I think the innovation of it is challenging,” Claytor says. “It’s frightening for some companies because they say, ‘Really? You’re going to send me a 14-year-old? And they’re going to know what to do?’”

The school conducts ongoing training sessions with students on business etiquette and how to behave in the professional environment, says Claytor. 

“If you tell young adults that they can be young professionals and this is how you act, this is what you do, they’re capable of it,” she says. “They want to grow and be successful. 

“I think it’s so powerful. It really changes the trajectory of kids’ lives.”

But don’t call the need for more corporate partners for the school’s work-study program a problem. “Let’s call it a challenge,’” says Garbsch. “The issue is we need jobs. We really need the support of the business community.”

DePaul Cristo Rey opened its doors at 1133 Clifton Hills Ave. next to Cincinnati State Technical and Community College in 2011 as the first new Catholic high school in 50 years in the Cincinnati area. Sponsored by the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati, the school is recognized by the Archdiocese of Cincinnati as a Catholic high school.

The school’s first graduating class in 2015 finished with a 100 percent graduation rate and all 48 graduates were accepted to college, earning more than $2.9 million in scholarship money, says Garbsch.