Acme Corrugated Box President Bob Cohen fervently believes in equal access to education – a belief that led to a partnership with Cristo Rey Philadelphia High School that marks its 10th year in 2024!
A private Catholic high school welcoming students of all faiths, Cristo Rey features a unique model: Its students – who generally hail from under-served communities – spend one day a week at work-study partner organizations including Acme Corrugated Box, rotating through various departments over the course of four years. Student tuition for the private school is subsidized by wages earned in work-study.
One of 95+ Philadelphia-area companies that participates as a Cristo Rey Philadelphia job partner, Acme Corrugated Box hires four Cristo Rey students each year. We talked with one of them, 18-year-old recent graduate Breze Howard, about her experience at Acme Corrugated Box – and what lies ahead.
Breze, congratulations on your graduation from Cristo Rey Philadelphia High School!
BREZE: Thank you!
Let’s start by hitting rewind. How did you make the choice, four years ago, to attend Cristo Rey?
BREZE: I wasn’t sure which high school I wanted to attend. A woman who worked in administration at my middle school recommended Cristo Rey Philadelphia High School. I applied, took the entrance test, went through the interview process, and was accepted. At the beginning of my freshman year, I was paired with Acme Corrugated Box and started working there one day a week during the school year for four years. My last day was just a few weeks ago.
The work-study program’s intent is to help students acquire skills that will help them in their careers and lives. Can you share a little about your roles at Acme Corrugated Box?
BREZE: My freshman year I worked in the customer service department. The next year I contributed to a company research project as a diversity consultant. My junior and senior years, I worked in the sales department. I also had the opportunity to collaborate with marketing and accounting, which I really enjoyed.
BREZE: The project that was the most fun was when I found photos and came up with hashtags for social media posts, and also finding fun facts about the company for their open house. I also liked learning the ins and outs of making boxes – how many different box types there are, and how much effort goes into making something that seems so simple.
Tell us about some specific skills you took away from your time.
BREZE: Starting my freshman year I began learning Amtech Software, which handles scheduling and other needs for manufacturing companies. I also learned Excel and Salesforce. Personally, I learned how to become more social and professional. And, of course, I learned how to put boxes together.
What’s next for you?
BREZE: I’m attending Chestnut Hill College starting this fall, as a Computer Science major. I hope to be able to intern and gain experience in the tech field. In the future I’d like to work in the tech field though I’m not sure doing what exactly.
What made you choose Computer Science?
BREZE: In my internship at Acme Corrugated Box, I especially liked learning Excel and other software and seeing the ways technology contributes to the business world.
Your final day with Acme Corrugated Box was just a few weeks ago. How did they send you off?
BREZE: There was an event called Presentation Day where another Cristo Rey Philadelphia student and I presented to the company about what we’d learned from work-study. Afterward they gave us donuts and gifts and I had a chance to say goodbye to everyone. It was kind of sad, but also felt good.
Anything you’d like to say to Acme Corrugated Box as you move onto your next chapter?
BREZE: I appreciated the warmth of everyone and the good energy overall. Everyone was so nice and welcoming. I’m especially grateful to all three supervisors I had – Annamarie, Heidi, and Helene. They did a great job of showing me the ropes when I started in their departments and helped me whenever I needed it.
Is there anything you’d say to students considering internships, or to students considering Cristo Rey Philadelphia High School?
BREZE: I think it’s very important for students to have internships because it gives them a glimpse into the professional world, which can help them figure out their career paths and make more informed college decisions. Internships make great additions to your resume, too, and can open doors.
Any advice for students starting internships this summer or fall?
BREZE: Try not to be nervous talking with the employees. If they know you’re an intern they’ll probably be kind and willing to help you out if you need it.
Breze was awarded The Work-Study Professional Achievement Award from Cristo Rey Philadelphia High School. This award recognizes a graduating senior who has shown exceptional growth, leadership, and professionalism both in school and at work.
To learn more about Cristo Rey Philadelphia High School including how to support their mission, visit CristoReyPhiladelphia.org.