The Cristo Rey Network serves about 13,000 underserved students across 24 states.

Merage School helps to improve corporate diversity through partnership with Cristo Rey High School

August 22, 2023 • By The UCI Paul Merage School of Business

The Merage School is giving back to the local community and contributing to corporate diversity through a new partnership with Cristo Rey High School of Orange County in Santa Ana.

The partnership presents a unique opportunity to make a profound impact in student’s lives as the Cristo Rey Network is the only network of high schools in the country that combines a rigorous college preparatory curriculum with professional work experience.

The Catholic-based network of schools partners with thousands of corporate partners, including Nike, Google, Microsoft, Coca-Cola, Johnson & Johnson, Citigroup, American Express, Kaiser Permanente, AT&T, American Red Cross, and Ford Motor Company to improve diversity in the workplace by educating and providing professional work opportunities to its largely underserved student population.

“Cristo Rey is providing both a quality education and critical hands-on experience to students with limited economic resources and we are grateful to be partnering with such an innovative institution,” said Lori Pittman, Merage School Director of Human Resources. “We strongly believe in supporting local high schools and contributing to the future success of Orange County students.”

The Merage School has been taking part in a number of activities with Cristo Rey over the last few weeks. Students were able to visit the UC Irvine campus on the first day of the high school’s Summer Success program. The two-week program is designed to kickstart the new school year and help students practice professionalism and build community.

As part of the visit, students heard from Merage School Associate Dean Kevin Bradford, participated in a question and answer session with a panel of alumni, and learned about Corporate Work Study, which is a crucial component of the Cristo Rey Network. The program operates like a temporary employment agency within Cristo Rey schools. Students work five days a month in an entry-level position for each year they’re in high school in order to gain real-world experience and earn a majority of their educational costs. In addition to the experience, students work with mentors as they prepare for college and their future careers.

“Companies are able to expand their talent pool, advance racial equity, and contribute to improving educational opportunities for students when they partner with Cristo Rey,” Pittman said. “Each of these goals are important to the overall Merage School mission.”

The Merage School will be providing two students a chance to intern with the Program Services office. The students will be working alongside Tanya Lozano, Program Administrator for the MSBA and MIE programs.

Merage School staff members attended a Draft Day event, where as founding partners of the Cristo Rey Network, we 'drafted' students to join our teams, similarly to the NFL draft. Students met with the companies that are contributing to their future success. During the exciting event, Merage brought pompoms, t-shirts, and other Merage swag to celebrate our student interns.

The Merage School is aiming to host the Draft Day next year on the UC Irvine campus.

“Merage was able to play a significant role in the students first day of school,” Pittman said. “We are looking forward to taking part in more events in the future and hosting the students and corporate partners. Our long term goal is to welcome some of these students back to UC Irvine as undergraduate students.”