Students from Cristo Rey High School in Richmond have been interning with Henrico County since the beginning of their school year. They help register citizens to vote, record county taxes, manage general services of the county and help libraries. And they’re only freshmen.
Cristo Rey is a private high school in Richmond that exclusively serves students of limited income. As the founding class of the 37th Cristo Rey school in the nation, the Richmond students are part of a 12,000-student body who work with more than 1,700 businesses nationally.
The school operates like an “employee leasing agency,” according to Cristo Rey. Its Corporate Work-Study Program allows students to work while financing most of their tuition. The students’ wages are paid directly to the school and applied to tuition. Each student works five days per month while taking a full load of classes that will prepare them for college.
Henrico implemented its internship program in 2012 to help high school and college students develop workplace readiness skills and become marketable to future employers. To date, the county has had 482 interns complete the program. Henrico agreed to be a founding corporate partner with Cristo Rey students when the school opened in fall 2019.
Elizabeth, who works in the Department of Finance, said, “It’s the little steps that get you where you want to be.” She plans to remain committed to her studies at Cristo Rey and hopes to pursue college after graduation. She appreciates the internship opportunities because she knows this will give her a leg up in the workplace and when applying to colleges.
The students’ exposure to a professional workplace at such a young age has given them experiences that most students don’t get until after high school.
For example, Celiana, who works the Office of Voter Registration and Elections, said she has learned computer and office skills that will give her more job opportunities in the future. Joshua, who works in the Department of General Services, said that he has learned how to talk to adults in a way that he is confident with himself and has learned leadership skills within his department.
“The Cristo Rey interns are learning about the responsibilities of holding a job and how to conduct themselves in a professional environment,” said Debbie Lumpkin, Henrico’s intern program coordinator. “They are providing support to our staff in carrying out daily duties and learning about the department that they are working in. The students are eager to learn and explore career possibilities.”
As members of Cristo Rey’s founding class, the interns hope that this program grows so that others can reap the benefits just like these students have. They all advocate for Cristo Rey and want to see the school grow into a staple for the Richmond community.
Note: The last names of students have been withheld for privacy reasons at the request of Cristo Rey High School. This article was written by Gabby Brophy, a student at Virginia Tech who spent her winter break interning with Henrico County Public Relations. For more information about internships with Henrico, go to henrico.us/services/internship/.