At Cristo Rey Philadelphia High School, celebrating our first college graduate - Generocity Philly

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Feb. 10, 2020 10:30 am

At Cristo Rey Philadelphia High School, celebrating our first college graduate

In his guest column, John McConnell highlights Johnathan Ortiz who, graduating a semester early, became the school’s first college grad alumni. Ortiz is now working as a security engineer at Comcast, where he interned as a H.S. student.

Johnathan Ortiz.

(Courtesy photo)

This guest post was written by John McConnell, the founder and president of Cristo Rey Philadelphia High School.
Since founding Cristo Rey Philadelphia High School in 2012, our students have worked hard to achieve many milestones: from our first senior class graduating in 2016, to achieving a remarkable 100% acceptance rate into college each year. Now, we’ve reached another milestone — our first college graduate.

Johnathan Ortiz, a member of the founding class of Cristo Rey Philadelphia and a 2016 graduate, became the first Cristo Rey Philadelphia alumni to graduate from college by earning a degree in information sciences and technology with a minor in security risk analysis from Penn State University.

Finishing a four-year program a full semester early, Jonathan has already stepped into a fulltime role as a security engineer at Comcast in January, becoming Cristo Rey Philadelphia High School’s first graduate to begin his professional career.

We could not be more proud of Johnathan and his success, and to truly understand the greatness in Johnathan’s accomplishments, we have to go back to where it all began — when Johnathan, as just a sophomore in high school, first stepped through the doors of Comcast for his internship in Cristo Rey’s Work Study Program.

The Work-Study Program is the cornerstone of Cristo Rey. Students work one day per week at companies in Philadelphia, earning real wages that offset the cost of their education, and therefore, provide students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds an opportunity to receive a quality, college-prep education.

Johnathan’s work-study job allowed him to learn and grow at Comcast through his senior year and beyond. He continued to intern at Comcast after graduating from Cristo Rey, during his summers between college.

“If not for Cristo Rey, I would have never been able to obtain the connections I have today. The Work-Study Program allowed me to interact with important people, and I took advantage of that opportunity,” Johnathan told us.

Determined to secure a role on the Technology and Product Experience (TPX) team, Johnathan capitalized on the networking skills he learned at Cristo Rey and landed himself a meeting with a high-level executive at Comcast. The result? In 2017, while still in college, Jonathan was offered a part-time job on the Comcast TPX cybersecurity team in Philadelphia.

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He accepted, and began commuting to Penn State Abington to complete his degree while working part-time. His strong work ethic resulted in a full-time job offer. Johnathan graduated in December 2019 and accepted a role as member of the Comcast team in January 2020, where he is now thriving.

Johnathan’s story is a clear indicator of why enabling students early with the skills to succeed in the workforce not only inspires passions, but opens doors to prosperous futures. Through their placements in work-study jobs, students learn to believe that they can navigate successfully on their own. And when they genuinely believe that, it becomes true.

At Cristo Rey, we believe education is critical to breaking the cycle of poverty. In fact, we know that the professional skills learned on-the-job coupled with college-prep curriculum means that Cristo Rey graduates are three times more likely to complete a bachelor’s degree by age 24, compared to the total U.S. low-income population. And now, with our first college graduate, we see the undeniably positive impact our Work-Study program has on our students’ aspirations and career readiness.

As the rest of Johnathan’s class turn their tassels in 2020, we look forward to seeing all of our first graduating class — and the many others who follow — step into their full potential and make great impacts on the communities they will serve as members of the workforce.

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