School to offer jobs for students

Pay can go toward Catholic tuition

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A new Catholic high school opening this fall in Emsworth will provide jobs to students to help them pay their tuition and gain work experience.

Holy Family Academy will open its doors to about 70 students Aug. 18, with plans to use its work-study program to give students something substantial to put on their resumes that also helps pay more than half of their Catholic school tuition.

The new high school will be on Ohio River Boulevard in a building the Pressley Ridge School for Autism currently occupies. Pressley Ridge's lease has expired, and it will be moving to a different location.

Holy Family Academy partners with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Bayer Corp., Phipps Conservancy, Point Park University, Duquesne University, UPMC, Ethan Corp. and more than 20 other businesses, where students will be working entry-level positions one day a week.

"These are no paper-pushing jobs," said Lindale Smith, director of admissions. "Each student will have a real job. They will be working in corporate America."

When students attend the school, they become employees of Holy Family Academy's work-study program, which allows them to work for the contracted corporations. Participating companies receive an Educational Improvement Tax Credit, which is open to businesses that provide assistance to educational institutions, or an Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit, which is given to businesses offering scholarships to students who live in the boundaries of a low-achieving school.

Tuition is $15,000 per year, the most of any Catholic School in Allegheny County, but about $8,500 is paid through the work-study program. The average tuition for a Catholic high school last year in the Diocese of Pittsburgh was $9,500.

This is not the first high school of its kind to so heavily incorporate work experience into its curriculum. The Cristo Rey school network, which has 26 schools in 17 states, including one in Philadelphia, also has a corporate work-study program and provided ideas for a lot of Holy Family Academy's program.

Karen Bauer, 49, of Spring Hill-City View has sent her son, Henry, to private Catholic schools for his entire education. He will be starting ninth grade at Holy Family Academy in the fall, in part because of the work experience offered.

"He wants to know how to act in a real-life job situation," she said. "A lot of kids sort of realize that education is great, but if you can't apply what you know, you're still going to have some trouble."

During the summer, Henry and his classmates will attend a three-week orientation where they will build their own desks, be evaluated on their interests for job placement and go to a Pirates game -- activities intended to prepare 15-year-olds for the working world and to bond as the first class in a new school.

Until it is at full capacity, Holy Family Academy will enroll a new freshman class every year, Mr. Smith said. Each class will be 75 to 100 students so the student-to-teacher ratio will be about 15:1.

Due to the small size of the student body, large team sports such as football will not be offered until the school grows in enrollment.

Deb Sadowski, school director of corporate work study, believes Holy Family Academy fills an educational gap for students coming out of small middle school programs who don't want to enroll in large area high schools but or might not be able to pay for a private school education.

"There are many students coming out of eighth grade who are at a high risk of dropping out or not thriving in their public school," said Ms. Sadowski. "For those students, if their school district doesn't have a charter school, then the parents have to fund a private education or choose to home school."

Holy Family Academy is also making use of resources available in the city of Pittsburgh, partnering with the Carnegie Science Center, where students will have math and science classes once a week; and Manchester Craftsmen's Guild, a nonprofit arts organization where they will have art classes.

Three days a week, students will have all of their classes at Holy Family Academy. One day a week, Tuesdays or Thursdays, will be devoted to working.

The morning of the remaining day will be spent at Holy Family and the afternoon in science, math and art classes at outside facilities. Mr. Smith said such a day could involve reporting to morning prayer before attending English class, history and religion. Next, students could get on a bus to the Carnegie Science Center for lunch and lab-style classes that are integrated into the Science Center's exhibit. Then it's back on the bus to go to the Manchester Craftsmen's Guild before returning to school at the end of the day.

The school's first freshman class will be a pilot group for Jason Brown, the director of Education for the Carnegie Science Center, as he tries to create classroom materials teachers can use with the Science Center exhibit.

"There is a real model for partnership for an informal environment like ours and a formal educational one like Holy Family Academy," said Mr. Brown. "We can supplement what they need, and essentially we can work together to offer students the best education possible."


Max Radwin: mradwin@post-gazette.com, 412 263 1280 or on Twitter @MaxRadwin.

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