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SAN DIEGO (KUSI) – A new high school is set to open soon in San Diego and when it does, it will give students a unique educational experience.

Cristo Rey High School in Southcrest is striving to narrow the opportunity gap by offering low-income students a college prep education at a faith-based school.

As a means of paying for tuition, Cristo Rey requires every student to participate in a work-study program. Employers who sponsor the students help to cover the tuition costs.

Students in the network of 37 Cristo Rey schools nationwide are not paid by the job sponsor directly. In San Diego, businesses will pay the school’s corporate work study program, a sum of $32,600 for one full-time position.

The job is shared by four students who will take turns, each working one day a week.

About 60 percent of a student’s tuition will be covered by the work-study program. Private donations add up to another 25 to 30 percent. The remaining cost is assumed by the family and that will vary based on financial need

School president Bob Nascenzi says the amount can range from $500-$1,800 for the school year.

Thirteen-year-old Pedro Santiago, who is already accepted as part of Cristo Rey’s inaugural freshman class, said his family could not afford to send him to one of the other San Diego area Catholic high schools, where tuition typically runs about $20,000 a year.

He estimated his tuition at Cristo Rey would amount to about $125 a month. For the year, “It would probably just go above $1,000,” Santiago said.

One of the work-study sponsors is the commercial real estate company CBRE. Managing Director Natalie Dahl said the students who participate in the program will be given a variety of tasks that may include data entry, fielding calls and working on more complex projects with timelines and expectations.

Dahl said students benefit from seeing how they can make a contribution.

“It’s about exposure, seeing what the world is like beyond the classroom, being able to act on something and provide value and contribute to something – that’s how we build confidence,” Dahl said.

Cristo Rey Principal Michael Derrick said the work experience gives students an extra edge.

“Our kids are going to graduate from college with four years at CBRE and Chase Bank and what an incredible thing to have on your resume,” Derrick explained.

Cristo Rey San Diego is scheduled to open on August 17. The school is still short of the money it needs for operations and capital improvements so it can begin classes by that date

If you are interested in making a donation, you can go to the Cristo Rey website: