High school athletes juggle work and sport

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On Tuesdays when the Christ the King girl’s basketball team gathered to start practice, everyone is present except the seniors.

On Wednesdays, freshmen are missing; on Thursdays, it’s sophomores; and on Fridays, it’s the juniors.

On top of their school work the Lady Gladiators join every student in the school as employees in Christ the King’s Corporate work-study program.

The program is one of two of its kind in Chicago that allows students to pay nearly three-fourths of their almost $15,500 tuition by working.

Christ the King and Cristo Rey are two of 28 schools nationwide that participate in the program, which requires students to work one to two days a week in a corporate setting.

“If basketball doesn’t work out, then I’ll have experience in the work field, and it’ll be a good look on my college application for when I apply,” freshman Charisma Robinson said. “When I apply for jobs, they’ll see I was already working at an office and I have experience.”

Work and academics always come first for Christ the King students, even for athletes who aren’t allowed to miss work for practice or a game. This sometimes makes it difficult for the Lady Gladiators to mesh as a team.

To accommodate, coach Edward Douglas said he makes “big” adjustments in what he chooses to focus on at practices, depending on which players are present.

“When you don’t have everybody, it’s hard to gain a concept and get [the team] to adapt to what you’re trying to do,” he said. “It’s like a skeleton crew at times.”

While at work, players have gotten experience in areas like office management and medicine delivery in hospitals.

Starting freshman year, they’ve had the opportunity to build their resumes and professional networks in the fields of health, law, real estate and others they aspire to work in after college.

Juggling coursework that combines an intense, Jesuit-based curriculum with daily practices and games can become draining for some Lady Gladiators.

Some days are frustrating due to long nights of homework and fewer hours of sleep,  junior Moniquewa Knighten said.

“I think it’s a lot to a certain degree, but I also feel it’s helping them for college,” said coach Rhonda Greyer, whose daughter Amari is a sophomore the team. “If you can work, play sports and still manage to get good grades in high school, then you’re straight in college.”

Because of the corporate work-study program, nearly 1,000 students in the Chicago area have the opportunity to enter college with four years of professional corporate experience.

Players and their families agreed the program is providing students with a unique opportunity on a path toward academic and professional success.

“A lot of schools are educating kids but not necessarily preparing them for the work force, and that’s an ideal thing,” said Faneisha Daily, mother of senior DeJada Daily.

“Working at these companies, they get to see things, network with people and socialize with people. Those are tools and resources they are able to use to help them determine what it is they want to do.”DSC_0460

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