Each of our young ladies at ICA Cristo Rey has a learning experience unlike any other high school student. Five days a month, she will leave ICA’s campus and enter an alternative classroom: the workplace. Her work supervisors are her teachers, expanding what she has learned in school with real-world work experience and professional development.
In addition to two different learning environments, this young woman will also benefit from two complementary curricula: an academic college prep curriculum, and a "life prep" curriculum delivered by our Corporate Work Study Program (CWSP).
Since 2012, CWSP has been developing its MAPS (Motivation, Attitude, Professionalism, and Skills) curriculum. This is both a two-week summer training for incoming students and a four-year professional development curriculum. Our mission is to connect each student’s workplace experience with clear learning outcomes. MAPS teaches her to articulate and utilize the skills she develops through the program, enabling her to carry her academic and work experiences with her as she begins her journey to college and into the world.
CWSP Program Manager Nicole Cecchini, has been a leader in this ongoing project. With her master’s degree in Curriculum Design and Development from the University of San Francisco, Ms. Cecchini came to ICA when the initiative to develop a CWSP curriculum first began.
“Having a CWSP curriculum was one of our WASC goals, but what it would look like was unclear,” Ms. Cecchini says. “We hoped to get the students more reflective on the work experience and make it more worthwhile for them.”
Working with feedback from the supervisors who see firsthand how our young Spartan ladies are responding to their experience, the CWSP team developed a curriculum designed to match the needs of the workplace.
MAPS helps each student reflect on her experience by tracking her personal growth and learning how to articulate what she has accomplished. The program also helps her develop her hard skills with ongoing technical training. This year, we have adopted into our curriculum a learning software called Skillsoft, which students will use to develop their Microsoft Office skills.
“If you look at the data, supervisor feedback, and Network evaluations, you’ll see that we’ve grown,” Ms. Cecchini says. “There is a new level of rigor. We’re building each year.”
And as we grow together, we also become better. Each year, MAPS becomes more effective at encouraging student growth and meeting the needs of our supervisors.
Tam Nguyen, supervisor of our team at Salesforce, reflects that ICA’s work training aligns very well with her expectations and hopes for her student workers. The curriculum forms young women who know how to communicate and conduct themselves in the workplace.
“We’ve had other interns, and ICA students by far demonstrate the most professional demeanor of any of them,” Nguyen says. “Everything from their work product to how they hold themselves in the office is exceptional. My colleagues and I are consistently impressed by it. It’s clear from their motivation and focus at work that they have undergone very diligent training in their professional and workplace skills.”
Not only has ICA’s program improved locally, but MAPS has also had national influence as part of a pilot curriculum program for all schools in the Cristo Rey Network. For the past year and a half, Ms. Cecchini has worked with curriculum coordinators from five other Cristo Rey Network schools to develop learning benchmarks and assessments for all Cristo Rey students nation-wide.
Together with our partners and supervisors, we are forming young women of faith, learning, leadership, and vision. Our young women are prepared for the academic challenge they will meet in college, and to take leading roles in the workplace and in their future careers.
Mary Clare Mazzocchi