Stephanie Rienzi

Stephanie tutors a student in pre-calc

Service Site: Cristo Rey Jesuit High School, Minneapolis, MN

University: Loyola University Chicago

What do you do?
I am a Hire4ed Coordinator at Cristo Rey Jesuit High School Twin Cities.  At Cristo Rey, students are required to work five days a month to help off-set the cost of tuition. As a Hire4ed Coordinator, I am a liaison between students and their supervisors at work.  I travel to sites to observe students in their working environment and follow up with students back at school about their experiences. I also teach pre-calculus to an advanced math student.  During my first semester at Cristo Rey, I was the extracurricular activities coordinator and the girls basketball coach.

The 2011-2012 Girls Varsity Basketball team with coach Stephanie

What have you discovered about poverty from your work?
In working at CRJHS-TC I have learned a great deal about teenage urban poverty.  Previously, I had mainly worked with adults in similar situations. While I understood that poverty can effect every member of a family, I never quite knew the effect it had on students. From a work standpoint, I have learned how flexible you have to be with students. Many of the students have difficult situations at home, which translate into their performance at work.  I teach students skills that will be beneficial as they continue working in adulthood. Sometimes work is difficult or boring, however the job needs to get done and I help students realize this concept. Furthermore, I am also helping them understand that work and home need to be two separate entities.

What is the most challenging obstacle that your students face?  How do your school and your own outreach try to empower them to overcome this obstacle?
The most challenging obstacle that students face is understanding the significance of working during the school day.  Sometimes it is difficult for a supervisor to recognize that a 14 year old high school student needs a significant amount of guidance in completing their job.  Students also struggle with communication with supervisors. They are often quiet and shy with supervisors. As a Hire4ed coordinator I coach them to realize that supervisors are not “scary” or intimidating. In helping both the student and supervisor realize that this is a beneficial relationship, both parties have the ability to learn from each other.

Stephanie in front of the Hire4ed board and a map of the 24 Cristo Rey schools in the US

Have you noticed any signs of success in your work?  What are they?
One sign of success that I have noticed occurred when visiting students at work: Students are proud of what they do at work.  When they learn that I am going on a site visit to see them, they love to show me exactly what happens in thier day at work. Their faces light up, even if the tasks the student do are not exciting, showing off the workplace is exciting to them. They are proud of what they accomplish throughout the school year. I want the students to be successful at work and when they find their work meaningful I believe that this is a major success as a coordinator.

What would you say to one of your students who came to you discouraged about a particularly troubling problem?
If a student gets fired at work, it is necessary to have difficult conversations with both students and parents.  We have a re-employability process that requires the student to reflect on why they were fired and how they can improve so this problem does not happen again.  It is important for students to identify their strengths and weaknesses.  This self reflection allows for a conversation about how to be successful at their next job and life.  I believe it is important to establish responsibility for actions.  Letting the student take responsibility for what happened, they are able to learn from this mistake and grow.

Stephanie's LV community members support her in her first 10K

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