First class of Tampa college preparatory school sending 98% of graduates to college

Senior graduation has a significant meaning for students at Cristo Rey Tampa High School.

They are flying high over their school's senior achievement celebration.

"It comes with a lot of joy and a lot of honor, you know, to be a part of the first graduating class," said graduate Joseph Alesandini. "No one can take that away from me."

Joseph and his 43 classmates are the first to graduate from Cristo Rey Tampa. 

"It was a phenomenal four years and I enjoyed every bit of it," Alesandini said.

This is the first Cristo Rey School in Florida designed to help inner-city youth raise their expectations through a program of strong moral, academic, and professional values. 

"They push and they pull and they make sure the kids do their very best," said Joseph's dad, Dominic Alesandrini.

Most of the graduates are the first in their families to go to college. 

"He's worked very hard and deserves the success and the school has had a hand in that," said Joseph's mom, Michelle Alesandrini.

The school also has a work program with local businesses and hospitals to get students experience is their chosen fields.

"They're going to be able to go out into our community and into our country and make a difference," Cristo Rey marketing director Terrie Dodson said. "They take a full course load and during the week, they're working in places like JP Morgan Chase, Runyan Company, Tampa General, Baycare."

Cristo Rey is helping empower students to achieve their goals for a better life.

"They offered me resources that I don't think that I would have at any other school and definitely created a lot of opportunities for me that I wouldn't have anywhere else," Joseph said.

The school was started in 2016. 42 of the 43 students are graduating and going to college.

For information about Cristo Rey School Tampa, visit