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On Your Side Champions: Cristo Rey High School first graduating class

Every graduate of Cristo Rey Columbus High School is headed to college. (WSYX/WTTE)

A high school in downtown Columbus, opened just four years ago, is about to hold its first graduation.

But it will not be the final day of school for any of the grads; every one of them will be going to university or college.

Last week the entire student body at Cristo Rey Columbus High School gathered for a rally on Wednesday morning to celebrate the accomplishment.

It was also a way to celebrate a promise fulfilled.

When the first freshman class arrived at the private school in 2013, School Director Jim Foley promised them that every one of them would be accepted into college or university--would go there and graduate.

Foley says, "the school culture is huge. We never ask the students, are you going to college? We talk about where are you going to college. We say that from day one"

It was that mindset that convinced a shy Vanesa Mora to attend. She says she's come out of her shell at the school, in large part because of the school's work-study program. Each student works five days a month. School fees are paid by employers for student work and that comprises the bulk of the school's budget.

Mora, who's headed to Ivy League Brown University, says work-study gave her "the academic skills, the professional skills to kind of go out in the real world...get entry ship into college or proceed with my academic career"

Fellow grad Aaron Bowen spent the last 4 years interning at the large Columbus law firm Bricker & Eckler. He credits Cristo Rey's work-study program with teaching him how to move among professionals at an early age. "Making sure we know how to properly answer phones, how to properly shake hands, how to properly make small-talk; preparing you for anything you might encounter in the workplace".

Bowen is heading to Alderson Broaddus University and plans to go to law school eventually.

Now it's on to the second graduating class, and Director Foley says the same promise and expectation stands for them and all other incoming freshmen at Columbus Cristo Rey High School.

"I said to the younger kids today--that's what's gonna happen for you. They had a great accomplishment, but the class of 2018, you're gonna do the same thing."

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