January 12, 2018 07:00 PM
Lots of high schools in Minnesota hold Friday pep rallies - usually to cheer on a team before a big game.
But the celebration at Cristo Rey High School in Minneapolis Friday morning had nothing to do with sports.
Instead, students celebrated 13 of their classmates officially being accepted to college.
"(The pep rally) is something really nice, especially because it's people you've been going to school with and the teachers you know," said senior Leandro Vargas, who has already been accepted to four colleges including St. Cloud State University.
But the average family household income of a Cristo Rey student is less than $37,000. Even with loans and grants, paying for college can be extremely difficult.
That's where Wallin Education Partners comes in.
"The single largest reason for students not to go to college is financial, so we're able to provide support - $16,000 per student" said Susan Basil King, executive director of Wallin Education Partners.
Wallin Education Partners matches students like Alberto Vergara with individual donors.
"Tuition keeps rising, books are expensive," said Vergara, a junior at St. John's University. "Especially when you're studying the sciences, you have $300 dollar textbooks. Wallin has really taken a lot of the financial stress out of that."
The donors, however, do more than write a check. They also serve as mentors to the students, offering encouragement and other advice along the way.
"When I went to the ceremony and met Peter, that's when I realized this was more than just a scholarship," Vergara said of his donor Peter Wilhoit. "It could help me further on in life.
"Whenever we had lunch, it was never like a business lunch. It was more like friends meeting up and talking about what's going on."
As for Vargas, he's looking forward to following in the footsteps of the other Cristo Rey students before him. Next fall, he will officially become the first in his family to go to college.
"This is just the beginning of my dream," he said.
With the 13 honored Friday, 69 students in Cristo Rey's senior class have already been accepted to college this school year.
The school reports 100 percent college acceptance of its senior class the past seven years prior to this one.
Each student at Cristo Rey works five full days per month to offset the cost of their tuition. Four students share one full-time job.
Two Cristo Rey students work in the KSTP newsroom, including Vargas.
"I want to major in journalism because of supervisors, my coworkers," Vargas said.
Updated: January 12, 2018 07:00 PM
Created: January 12, 2018 03:19 PM
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