Draft day: Milwaukee

Draft day: Milwaukee

Kendrianna, Aaron, Jose, Arianna — 129 students in all — line up. They planned for this, worked toward it for most of the summer. Wearing dress shirts, dark pants and broad smiles of anticipation, the moment has arrived. These 14-year-old recruits are ready for Cristo Rey Jesuit High School Milwaukee’s first draft day.

The draft day metaphor is more than fun. “This is a huge day,” says Joe Mazza, Grad ’05, corporate work study program director, addressing parents, grandmothers and friends watching the students parade into the auditorium.

This is the first class to enroll in the newest school in the Cristo Rey Network. The school will add classes for the next four years to reach capacity.

Each student earned an endorsement package that includes four years of education plus four years of business training. Teams of students will perform entry-level work at sponsor companies for five full days each month, with the companies applying their wages to the cost of this special model of education. As a university partner, Marquette has 14 Cristo Rey students working in offices on campus this fall.

The idea for Milwaukee’s Cristo Rey school started taking shape in 2012, when educators began testing interest in opening a Catholic, Jesuit college-preparatory school for students of limited financial means. With the support of the Marquette community, including Dean Bill Henk, devoted advocates marshaled resources to establish the school in West Milwaukee, build a team of 23 corporate and nonprofit partners willing to invest in the concept, and then enroll students.

But the biggest investors are the students. They committed four weeks to attending a boot camp where they learned essentials like business etiquette, problem-solving and computer skills. It included stops at Marquette to meet admissions counselors and deans who let the students know what it takes to succeed at the competitive college level.

Now Ashley, Evelyn, Leonardo, Marco, Elizabeth, Nayeli, Christopher, Jaden and every eager student perched on the edge of a seat is ready to take the next step. While the students quiet to hear their names called and join their sponsor companies on stage, parents wait with cameras raised to catch and keep the moment. — JMM

The Cristo Rey Network is the largest high school network of schools committed to low-income students.

• 9,800 students are currently enrolled

• 2,000 corporate partners support 30 schools nationwide

• 46 university partners, including Marquette


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