Reporting Reg Chapman
MINNEAPOLIS (WCC0) – A one-of-a-kind high school in Minneapolis is transforming urban education, one student at a time.
Fifty-one seniors graduated from Cristo Rey Jesuit High School on Saturday, and all have been accepted to a two or four year college.
Cristo Rey students come from diverse backgrounds. Some live in the most crime-ridden neighborhoods of the city.
For senior Morgan Ellis, this is a bittersweet day.
“It just amazes me that I graduated today I’m going to miss this place so much,” said Ellis.
The halls of Cristo Rey were a sanctuary for her. Growing up in North Minneapolis, all she ever wanted was a chance to succeed.
“Living in North Minneapolis you live with the stereotype that you are never going to make it out of the hood, you are never going to succeed and grow, and it’s always a teenagers dream to get out of the hood and, like prosper and be a leader to everybody and Cristo Rey allowed me to do that, “ she said.
Today, Ellis was one of 51 seniors who made up the second graduating class at Cristo Rey.
All have been accepted to a two or four-year college, and more than $545 thousand in scholarships have been awarded to graduating seniors so far.
Students say the school’s one-of-a-kind HIRE4Ed work study program helped them understand what it takes to be successful.
Meg Brudney, executive director of HIRE4Ed, breaks down the program.
“Students work one day a week and they go to school the other four days, and then they work one Friday a month,” she said.
Brudney says 90 employers work with the students five days a month. What they make is funneled back into the school to pay for more than half of the cost of their education.
‘What we’re finding is that bringing these kids into these professional environments and letting them know that’s where they belong if they want it – it’s as much for them as it is anybody else,“ said Brudney.
“I worked at two different jobs my first year. I studied at a printing company in St. Louis Park, and for the last three years I’ve been at the University of St. Thomas,” said Ellis.
Ellis will now take what she’s learned with her.
“I’m going to Northwestern in St. Paul. I’ve gotten so many scholarships school is paid for and it’s all thanks to Cristo Rey,” she said.
Ellis even got a scholarship on graduation day. Her mother, Sharon, says it’s all because of the commitment of teachers and staff at Cristo Rey.
“They just gave her the foundation that she needs. I think she is really ready to go forth and be successful,” said Sharon.
Cristo Rey students have mentors who work with them on and off the job to make sure they are prepared for college.
The program follows students for ten years. The goal is for Cristo Rey graduates to get a degree within six years after graduation.