As Grace Ouabo is about to graduate with her fellow students in the class of 2019 at Don Bosco Cristo Rey High School in Takoma Park, Maryland, she especially appreciates the professional experiences she gained in the school’s Corporate Work Study Program.

“That’s what makes this school special,” she said. “I feel like having the opportunity to be in a professional setting is a life skill. I have a head start in being in a professional setting… It pushes you to be responsible and to prepare you for adulthood.”

Students in the school’s Corporate Work Study Program help earn money for their tuition by working at leading institutions in the Washington area, and during Ouabo’s four years at Cristo Rey, she worked at Georgetown University in the registrar’s office for its medical department, which dovetailed with her own interest in health issues that she has had since she was young.

“I want to help people live a healthy lifestyle… My goal is to educate people on wellness,” said Ouabo, who will attend Marymount University in Arlington this fall and where she might major in biology or health science.

Don Bosco Cristo Rey High School, a college preparatory school sponsored by the Archdiocese of Washington and the Salesians of Don Bosco has “given me enough education to prepare me for the real world,” said Ouabo, who is graduating with honors as one of the top students in her class.

The 17-year-old native of the central African country of Cameroon immigrated to the United States with her family when she was 5 years old. She has a younger brother, Josiah, and two younger sisters, Peniel and Danielle. Their father Legrand Ouabo is a special education teacher, and their mother Angeline Ouabo is a technician in the medical department at Howard University.

At Cristo Rey, Grace Ouabo has been active in the school’s African Student Association, which includes students from Ghana, Cameroon, Nigeria and Liberia, along with African American students and classmates with roots in the Caribbean.

“It was nice to connect with people from other African countries – it felt like home,” she said.

The group’s members have staged dance performances and fashion shows reflecting their cultures. “…The whole purpose of the club is to share African culture with the school community,” she said.

Ouabo, who attends a nondenominational Christian church in Hyattsville, served as secretary in Cristo Rey’s youth ministry program, and she said that after participating in retreats there, “I came back really motivated about being Christian and bringing people closer to God.”

She praised the example of Robert Smith, a math teacher at the school who continued “coming to school, giving his best to students” after being diagnosed with cancer. “He fought the good fight of faith, he gave his best,” she said of the teacher, who died on Palm Sunday, April 14, at the age of 38. A scholarship fund has been established there in his name.

During her years at Cristo Rey, a special part of Ouabo’s work at Georgetown University came in the spring, when she put diplomas in envelopes for graduating medical school students. In her work at that office, she had gotten to know some of those students and seen how they progressed over the years.

And Ouabo, who is about to graduate from high school with her own aspirations for possibly working in a health field, said that after seeing students similar to herself succeed, “It’s encouraging to know if they can do it, I can, too.”