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February 2020

Chicago High School Students Earn While They Learn

Leaders Bank
Students in the Corporate Work Study Program at Christ the King Jesuit College Prep High School gain valuable experience working at local area businesses, such as Leaders Bank.

    Question: What's more valuable than a great education? Answer: A great education that includes experience in real-world work settings. That's the lesson enjoyed by student workers at Christ the King Jesuit College Prep (CTK), a high school on Chicago's West Side.

   More than 200 Chicago-area employers participate in the school's Corporate Work Study Program (CWSP), shared with Cristo Rey Jesuit High School. Each student is matched with an employer, serving as a reliable, affordable and productive employee one day each week in the employer's workplace. CTK students earn the majority of their tuition through their participation in the Corporate Work Study Program.    

   "Think of that! You're in high school, yet interacting with adults and learning about the work world," says Bill Gleason, president of Oak Brook, Ill.-based Leaders Bank, a corporate participant in CWSP.

    Leaders Bank pays to have a student at work every day, even though the 41-employee bank doesn't have enough tasks to keep students busy more than two days weekly. "We pay for students to work elsewhere on the other days, so they are still getting experience at non-profits, tutoring or working at food banks," Gleason says.

    Leaders Bank's CWSP students perform important duties. "The students use our imaging system, purging images associated with accounts from past years that have been closed." says Bob Hamaker, senior vice president of operations. "We’ve never done anything like that in the past. The students working for us are allowing us to catch up."

     Students do more than work. They get to know the full-time Leaders Bank employees, as mentors and on a social level by taking part in days when the bank brings in pizza or stages potluck lunches. "The students gain good experience about the social aspect of working in an office," Gleason says.

     What’s ahead? “We would love to expand the program, having the CTK students work here Monday through Friday as we grow,” Hamaker says. “giving more opportunity for these young men and women.”