Students express their joy as their names are called one by one. (Picture by Jen Mazz)

Four years ago, Cristo Rey Jesuit High School Milwaukee welcomed its first freshman class and just last Friday, it said farewell. The high school’s senior class of 2019 not only graduated, but 100 percent of the class was accepted into at least two four-year colleges or universities. Furthermore, they are all first-generation college students.

The graduation was held at the Church of the Gesu on the Marquette University Campus.

Recent graduate of Cristo Rey, Jesuit Riana Santiago will be attending MIAD and pursuing a career in graphic design and illustration.

Santiago said there were many ups and downs at Cristo Rey because her class was like the “guinea pigs.” Her experience at Cristo Rey Jesuit was challenging, she said, but she’s thankful because it has prepared her for life outside of Cristo Rey Jesuit.

Santiago said she “has the brain of an artist” and she wants to use her skills to bring diversity into the field.

“[I want] to touch a lot of people visually,” she said. “I want to take my graphic design and turn it into teaching.”

Graduating students holding up their diplomas. (Picture by Jen Mazza)

Cristo Rey Jesuit is a part of a bigger network of Cristo Rey schools. Dean of Performance Measurement and Innovation of Cristo Rey Jesuit, Andrew SpargoBoddy said they’ve been able to benefit from the best practices of the other Cristo Rey schools.

SpargoBoddy said the staff implanted in the students’ head that “there’s nothing that should hold them back.”

“They’re brilliant and resilient,” he added.

Marco Navarro, another recent graduate of Cristo Rey Jesuit, will be attending Marquette University this fall. He’s in the process of either choosing a degree in physiological science or philosophy. Navarro chose Marquette because it is close to home, his parents wanted him to attend and they have rigorous academics like Cristo Rey.

The students were offered AP classes and were held to a higher stander, he said. Through Cristo Rey’s Corporate Work Study Program, Navarro said he was taught important skills such as how to properly shake someone’s hand and how to dress for an interview. Each of the 85 students apart of the graduating class has four years of experience in professional jobs.

At school he was taught “don’t be afraid to try new things,” and now he’s ready for college and life.

“We are young men and women for and with others,” Navarro said about his peers. “We are ready to grow the Milwaukee community.”

According to a press release, the Class of 2019 has earned more than $3.5 million in scholarships and grants toward their college education. It also stated that by the time a student graduates from a Cristo Rey school they will have received 1,250 hours of work experience.

“Cristo Rey Jesuit will continue to support these students through college, and when we revisit them four years from now, I know we will be amazed with what they’ve accomplished,” President of Cristo Rey Andrew Stith wrote in a press release.

To learn more about the Cristo Rey network, visit