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Working toward their future

October 26, 2010|By Andrew Shortall, andrew.shortall@latimes.com
(Raul Roa/Staff…)

Nicholas Cardenas and Eddie Perez, two students at Verbum Dei High School in Watts, both make the 26-mile drive to the Foothills five days a month.

Cardenas works at the Allen Lund Company and Perez works at Bob Smith Toyota, thanks to their school's corporate work-study program.

"I know a lot of students would agree — the main reason I came to Verbum Dei was for the corporate work-study program," said Nicholas, a 17-year old senior.

Verbum Dei is an all-boys' college and preparatory school. The school's main goal is for all its students to go on to college. The school boasts a 100% matriculation rate, with 70% percent of its students going on to four-year universities while 30% enroll in community colleges.

"It's important in this community because these kids typically stay in the community they're raised in," said Paul Hosch, Verbum Dei's vice president of advancement. "If these kids are coming up and aren't successful, this community is never going to be anything, so we have to get these kids to go to college."

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And the school's corporate work-study program prepares students for their career after college, officials said.

"The point of the corporate work-study program is to teach the students how to be apart of that environment," said Larry Scott, Verbum Dei's vice president of corporate recruitment. "Many of them have never been out of Watts. They drive by the downtown high-rises in buses and now they're in them and through osmosis they learn they can be a part of it. They may have never thought about that before."

All of Verbum Dei's 270 students participate in the program. Each job is shared by four students. The school provides students with transportation to and from their work each day, whether it's in La Cañada, Long Beach, Santa Monica, downtown Los Angeles or Beverly Hills.

La Cañada is a long way from Verbum Dei High School, which sits between Jordan Downs and Nickerson Gardens, two government-housing projects.

As a school in the Cristo Rey Network, Verbum Dei's mission is to provide quality education to the economically and academically underserved.

The Jesuit priests took over the school 10 years ago when it was on the brink of shutting down. The school was having trouble remaining solvent, so the Jesuits initiated the corporate internship program to stay afloat financially.

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