Thursday, September 4, 2014

Sloppy Joe's? Not These HS Kids...Tucked in Shirts, Neckties and Working Hard

Everybody is crazy about a sharp dressed man.

Just when I think I couldn't love and respect a school anymore, I show up to a Cristo Rey High School meeting this week and find their marketing card, "Neckties are required." 

When was the last time you wore a necktie or equivalent of (I realize not all ladies wear neckties like me)?

Saw a kid wear a necktie in high school school?
Noticed someone wear a necktie to work!?

Something that seems to be fading in our work environments today is looking professional. Now, I'm not saying every man or woman needs to be wearing a suit, but you have to admit, some people take "dress down day" to the extremes. I understand many jobs and careers require their employees to wear casual attire due to the type of work they do on a daily basis. I'll be honest though, I have been out in factories and through warehouses where I have seen workers dressed in better uniforms and more respectful work clothes then some people out in business offices. What happened to" more is...appropriate and less is...inappropriate? When expected to dress up for the occasion, dressing down seems to becoming an issue.

Not at Cristo Rey High School in KC!

Uniting in their uniforms:  At Cristo Rey High School, every student wears a uniform at school and at work. They are expected to look professional and take pride in themselves and their school. They literally work to be at school, not just keeping up with their academics, but also for their tuition. When I was in high school, we did not have uniforms, but we were not wearing anything racy either. The early 90's brought the "layering of clothes" style coupled with one of my parents inspecting my outfit before I ran out the door. Not every student is going to default to wearing appropriate clothing, which is why schools need to emphasize a dress code policy, but more importantly, have honest and respectful conversations with students about the why. Why shouldn't students wear super mini skirts to school or jeans hanging off their bottoms, could you explain that to a High School student in a way they would relate to? If not, we need to try and connect with this generation. Some of them feel it is perfectly fine to dress half naked at school. Cristo Rey has taken the initiative to keep high standards of dress attire.

Working for a better education: The students Cristo Rey work for their tuition. The way the work study program is this: Most students perform entry-level clerical work. They answer telephones, maintain files, sort and deliver mail, scan and fax documents, perform data entry, or create documents with Microsoft Office products. Corporate job sponsors commit to a fee-for-service contract stating that money earned by students goes directly towards the cost of education at Cristo Rey Kansas City. The Corporate Work Study Program (CWSP) is an essential component of a Cristo Rey Kansas City education. Students earn credit hours for work study and roughly half of the cost of their own education. Cristo Rey staff consider the skill-level required for the job and the particular interests and skills of the student. Then CWSP assigns students to a job site. All new students attend a four-week Summer Training Institute. The institute teaches students a range of workplace skills:  communication on the phone, face-to-face, and by note or memo; use of office machines; file and record maintenance; business ethics and etiquette; and, essential computer skills. Returning students participate in an intensive one-week refresher course at the beginning of the school year. What do the students wear to their job site? Their professional school uniform.

Community buy in: With over 120 companies and organizations in the KC metro area supporting the work study program, it is no wonder there is a 90% rate of retention of job placement. Companies are working with our future work force and leaders...NOW. Showing them the ropes, expecting hard and soft skills and mentoring them all along the way.

There are three responsibilities of the business partner:

1.  Provide a positive work environment for the student – give instructions and offer feedback.
2.  Assign a supervisor who believes in the program.
3.  Identify meaningful work for the student and appraise work regularly.

I have such incredible respect for companies that seek out ways to support creative programs which really do make a difference. It takes time and money, but we are seeing inspiring improvements and positive changes brought to these students' lives which will impact them for years to come. We sometimes complain about the millennials and their work ethic, well, here's your chance to do something about it. Teach them, show them, care about them...just like someone did for you.

Let me end by saying that there is nothing wrong with a casual attire work policy, "dress down day" or a wear-what-you-want type of business environment. Anyone can rock a pair of jeans and make themselves look presentable. But that's just it, it's up you, and anyone else out there to take pride in who you are, where you want to be and want you aspire to be. 
The students at Cristo Rey have it figured out. They are dressed for success.

Take 2 minutes to learn more about Cristo Rey Schools and their talents right here in KC:

If you would like more information about Cristo Rey or the work study program, please feel free to contact more or visit their website:

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