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August 1, 2014, 3:49 am

Law firm gives students real life experience

Cristo Rey Philadelphia High School, one of the flagship college preparation high schools in the Cristo Rey Network, enjoys a unique relationship with the Cozen O’Connor law firm — one that allows for students to receive crucial, real-world work experience by working in the law firm’s offices.

Last Wednesday Cozen O’Connor was recognized by the high school and presented with a plaque for its job sponsorship efforts during a ceremony at the school.

“As a firm, we got involved with the program, and now, we have four students who work here who are assigned to four different departments,” said Cozen O’Connor shareholder and lawyer Jim Cullen, adding that Managing Partner Vincent McGuinness Jr. was also instrumental in the program, and signed off on the firm’s relationship with the school. “They do pretty substantive work, clerical work, and day-to-day jobs. It’s wonderful to work with them. It shows and teaches you about where you come from. and how you got there in life.”

Cristo Rey Philadelphia High School is one of 25 in the nationwide Cristo Rey Network, which is now in its twelfth year. The school has a rigorous curriculum that focuses on English, math, science, theology, social studies and Latin. It also employs a unique academic support program, in which one-on-one instruction is built into the students’ daily schedule.

In addition to its relationship with Cozen O’Connor, Cristo Rey has a vigorous work-study program, and all students are expected to spend one day per week at a sponsor company.

“The benefits of this program are outstanding and place Cristo Rey students uniquely as college-ready graduates with four years of real-world work experience. Cristo Rey's Work-Study Office secures open positions, placing students in work experiences that align well with their career interests, while also exposing students to new fields and opportunities that are available to them,” wrote Cristo Rey Work Study Program Director Bob Fabiszewski in an open letter to parents on the school’s website. “Work placements span various industries, including law, healthcare, insurance, accounting, media and technology, construction and real estate, nonprofit and more.”

Cullen said the experience gained by working in the law firm is paramount, especially since opportunities such as these will prepare tomorrow’s business men and women.

“Most of these students don’t have exposure to office jobs in their background. Their participating in the program shows them responsibility, and what it takes to succeed in an office setting,” Cullen said. “And at Cristo Rey, students have a work boot camp before they go to work, and are taught how to look people in the eye, shake hands properly, and other workplace etiquette.

“The students have made great strides,” Cullen added. “They are confident in the workplace, address people appropriately, and it exposes them to a professional office environment. These are very important skills, and when they graduate, they will be better positioned for the working world.”