Too often, children from disadvantaged families don’t know how to step on the first rung of a corporate ladder – much less climb one. They likely have never seen the inside of a law office or an accounting firm.

Catholic-based Cristo Rey Network, a chain of independently operated high schools, bridges that gap by connecting young people with professional entry-level jobs. From Miami to Boston to Los Angeles, more than 12,000 Cristo Rey students earn paychecks from top employers around the country.

Now, local children can enjoy the same opportunity. Starting next fall, Cristo Rey Orange County High will become the organization’s 39th school.

“Talent is universal, but opportunity is not,” said Stephen Holte, founding president of Cristo Rey OC. “Income should not determine a child’s future.”

The newest Cristo Rey school is centrally located in Santa Ana, on the campus of Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church.

About 125 ninth-grade boys and girls will launch the inaugural class. Then, Cristo Rey OC will add a class each year – eventually growing into a four-year school.

Cristo Rey schools carve out one day weekly for students to work off-campus in offices, where the young employees learn to conduct themselves professionally while trying out potential careers.

“You can’t be what you don’t see,” Holte said.

Tuition is largely covered by the students themselves – leaving their parents and guardians to pay only about $90 per month. “That’s our secret sauce,” Holte said.

“We offer a hand up, not a handout.”

Already three dozen businesses, nonprofits and government agencies have committed to hiring Cristo Rey OC students.

Among the diverse array of employers are Fidelity Bancorp, Children’s Health of Orange County (CHOC), Orange County Transportation Authority, Latham & Watkins law firm, Best Western hotels, Northgate Market, King’s Seafood Company and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange.

Half of tuition comes from donor- funded scholarships, 45% from student paychecks and the remaining 5% from parents….

The above comes from a Nov.9 story in OC Catholic.