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Teens gain real-world skills in Cristo Rey Corporate Work Study Program

Students reflect on what they learned at Securian Financial and look ahead to their futures

Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Minneapolis is part of a nationwide network that provides college preparatory education to young people from urban communities with limited educational options.

A key source of pride for the school is 100 percent of its graduates have been accepted to college or the military since its inception in 2007.

Securian Financial participates in the Cristo Rey’s Corporate Work Study Program, which exposes students to a professional work environment where they build marketable job skills.

“We value being able to support Cristo Rey students throughout their high school education,” says Sheryl Vaz, diversity and inclusion consultant at Securian Financial. “It’s great to see their growth, and we hope what they learned at our company gives them insight as they think about career options.”

Suzanne Denson, Cristo Rey’s client relations manager for the Corporate Work Study Program, adds, “By participating in the program, Securian Financial continues to create a diverse talent pipeline and advance social and economic equity in the Twin Cities. Since our collaboration began in 2017, students have worked alongside dedicated Securian colleagues and mentors to strengthen their competence and confidence. Cristo Rey students are truly agents of change as they work to build fulfilling lives and advance the common good.”

Cristo Rey High School student - Kayley
Cristo Rey High School student - Jann

Students’ perspectives

Two Cristo Rey students, Kayley and Jann, have been with Securian Financial for four years. During that time, they rotated through different departments, worked on diverse projects and gained practical experience along the way. Both have been accepted to college and plan to begin classes in the fall.

As they prepare to graduate high school and complete their time with us, Kayley and Jann shared highlights of their Securian Financial experience and what they’re looking forward to in life after high school.

What was it like when you first started working at Securian Financial?

Kayley: When I first started, I did feel intimidated because I was just a freshman trying to gain knowledge, while my co-workers were more advanced in life. But one way that I overcame intimidation was that I felt welcomed into the environment. [My coworkers] supported my learning and helped me to get used to the work.

Jann: I overcame the feeling of intimidation by keeping in mind that I was entering a different environment. I was going to be working next to educated adults who are creating a difference in the world with the work they do. Having this in mind made me be more attentive, work harder and give my very best.

What have you learned about yourself during your time at Securian?

Kayley: Something that I learned about myself during the Securian internship is that I always like to help whenever I can, and I like a challenge.

Jann: During my time at Securian I was able to adapt to the professional environment and become part of it. This experience prepared me for future employment, since I now know what it looks like to work as a team, communicate with superiors, ask questions, take notes and much more.

Can you share two things you learned at Securian Financial that will be helpful as you begin college and the next phase of your life?

Kayley: I learned that I am an extroverted person, which can help me adapt to new environments. Another thing I learned is the basic training of an office job, for example how to use Excel, Outlook and set up meetings. I gained confidence in my work. I’m grateful for what I learned and all my supervisors and coworkers who taught me everything.

Jann: I learned time management and note taking. I was given multiple assignments through the day to work on but also had to be aware of meetings to attend. I had to learn how to manage my time so I would be able to get everything done before I had to go home for the day. I also learned how to take notes and ask questions when I met people. Speaking up and asking questions had been a weakness of mine, but I really got to practice this at Securian because I felt comfortable with the people I was working with.

In what ways did you grow personally and professionally over these past four years?

Kayley: As I look back to my freshman year, I used to be reserved and didn't really talk much. When I had a question regarding the work, I was scared to speak up and ask. But now as a senior, speaking up has become easy. I learned that asking questions always benefits you in one way or another.

Jann: Through my four years at Securian Financial, I was able to grow personally and create a new [professional] identity for myself. Working in a corporate environment is something I had to adapt to, because as a high schooler, it wasn’t something I knew. The skills I picked up through my time at Securian are skills that I now use at school, work and other places. It’s been a great experience and this internship will help me in my future with whatever I choose to become.

What are you looking forward to the most after you graduate high school?

Kayley: I'm looking forward to attending college and finding a profession where I want to excel in life. After four years of college, I can see myself as an official employee of Securian Financial.

Jann: What I am looking forward to the most is finding a career that I will be passionate about. The feeling of knowing what type of path I’m going to take towards my adult life is something I really want to know, especially when it comes to determining the type of future job.

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