Q&A with Cristo Rey Jesuit High School

Cristo Rey Jesuit High School is a unique high school in many ways. The school is bilingual, and students take half of their classes in Spanish. As a parochial school, tuition is not free, but Cristo Rey has an innovative solution: students work at local companies one day a week to pay for their tuition. Through this program, students not only earn their school tuition, but can also gain valuable work experience, learn insights from co-workers and position themselves for full-time summer jobs or future internships.

Many of these students will complete their Corporate Work Study Programs in the finance industry, which makes the school a natural fit for the Magnetar Academy. While there isn’t room inside the school curriculum for finance classes, math teacher Kate Schulte teaches the Magnetar Academy curriculum as part of an after school club. The club has about 15 students, and meets two or three times a month (which ramps up to two times per week in the lead up to the Magnetar Academy Team Challenge.)

We spoke with Ms. Schulte about her experience with the Team Challenge and the lessons it teaches to her students.

 The Cristo Rey team (with teacher Kate Schulte on the far left) at this year’s Magnetar Academy Team Challenge.

The Cristo Rey team (with teacher Kate Schulte on the far left) at this year’s Magnetar Academy Team Challenge.

Kate Schulte, Cristo Rey teacher

Why did your school get involved with the Magnetar Academy Team Challenge?

I attended the event four years ago, and all the kids involved were smiling and loving it. That motivated me to start participating in the Magnetar Academy program. I had started to do a little finance teaching in one of my classes, because I realized it was needed — a lot of these kids don’t get that information elsewhere, and they’re going off to college without realizing how credit cards work.

What is most exciting to your students about the Magnetar Academy Team Challenge?

When I tell them the other schools that are going to the Challenge, they get excited — I think they like competition. They generally seem excited about the content. A lot of them think they might want to do business, or they like finance, or they are good at math. So that excites them to see those topics in a different way than they might in their classes. They have this class that they like so much, and they want to know how they can use it outside of school.

Once they get there, they really enjoy the stock trading simulation. Even just to be in this setting is exciting: you’re at Soldier Field, and the majority of the kids have never been inside the stadium.

Cristo Rey students participate in the 2017 Magnetar Academy Team Challenge.

Cristo Rey students participate in the 2017 Magnetar Academy Team Challenge.

What types of skills or experiences do your students gain from the Magnetar Academy Team Challenge?

It definitely is a place where they can see math, or what they’ve learned in school, in full effect outside of the classroom. I think it’s good to interact with other high schools, and see that other kids are doing the same thing. High school can kind of be a bubble, but eventually they’re going to meet others in college and in the real world. The Challenge gives them a glimpse of that… It’s also helpful for them to meet the mentors and coaches, hear their stories and learn about their career paths.

Why is it important for your students to learn about finance?

For my students particularly, I always tell them that I knew what a credit card was, but I didn’t really understand what it was until I was 21. A lot of these kids are from low income neighborhoods, and their parents don’t know as much about what banks can do for them, or how credit cards work or what loans mean. They don’t always have people who can teach them about this information.

For example, loans and scholarships for college. I didn’t really know what all of this meant when I was their age. Everybody should know what taking on a loan means, and it’s important for them to learn these things that are going to happen as soon as they graduate high school. I wish there was a place for these topics in the everyday math curriculum, but that’s why the Magnetar Academy program is so important. It’s a really cool program and that gets high schoolers excited about finance. It’s been a good thing to be a part of.