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Alum Shares Advice with Cristo Rey Network Students

by Taylor Sticha, Manager of Corporate Engagement

This month, Cristo Rey alum Melanie Vazquez ’14, senior analyst at Accenture, came full circle when she spoke to 180 current Cristo Rey students from 14 cities about her journey from Corporate Work Study Program (CWSP) to career.

Accenture, a CWSP partner with 14 Cristo Rey schools across the country, created a 10-week curriculum, “Learning2Lead,” utilized by almost 800 students nationally while in-person CWSP experiences remain suspended. A special component of the program is a panel series aimed at exposing students to diverse professionals at different levels of the company. Past panels have included DE&I leaders, company executives, and analysts. Melanie’s panel featured young professionals in junior roles, whose recent college graduations and early career achievements were most relatable to the high school students.

Cristo Rey seniors Stacey, Emily, Sara, and Valentina especially engaged with the panelists, with many questions for Melanie. When asked about what she learned at Cristo Rey and took with her to the University of Illinois at Chicago, and then Accenture, Melanie had a lot to say: “Cristo Rey was such a supportive community where everyone knew my name. While it was tough to transition to a big university, I felt prepared because Cristo Rey taught me to advocate for myself and to be resourceful. The CWSP really helped me with my soft skills, and I felt comfortable asking questions and seeking help. Even my professional wardrobe gave me a step up when I had two college internships!”

Cristo Rey Jesuit High School has nearly 2,100 alumni enrolled at universities and colleges and employed at companies across the country. Alumni are the greatest demonstration of the success of the CWSP, with 50% of corporate partners hiring alumni after graduation. Melanie attended the University of Illinois at Chicago and credited her CWSP job placement and mentors with helping her decide her major: “I was an engineering major, but I didn’t feel it was for me. My CWSP job was in the business field, and I was always fascinated by marketing and decided to take a class and loved it.”

Melanie’s advice for the students on the call: “The Cristo Rey teachers and staff will help you the absolute most. Enjoy every moment as a student. In college, take advantage of opportunities and do what will benefit you in the end.” Senior Stacey D. reacted to this advice sharing, “I’m making that my senior quote!”

Click here to learn more about Accenture's partnership with the Cristo Rey Network and Learning2Lead.