Candace Sweat

First Cristo Rey Graduating Class Breaks Barriers

The Meyerson Symphony Center in Dallas was filled with pride Sunday afternoon for 100 students blazing a trail as the firsts in their families to pursue a college education.

Max Hernandez was one of those students. It was bittersweet day for him.

It was a day to celebrate a major milestone, but also day that signified a change.

It's change his little brother is having a hard time with.

"It's emotional seeing him cry, but hopefully he knows that an important four years are to come and that we're still together," Hernandez said.

Hernandez is the first in his family to head off to college.

"It's very special to me because I know my parents had dreams of their own and they had to change up so we could have a better future. And for me it's like I'm not just protecting my dream, I'm also protecting theirs," he said.

Hernandez has a story similar to many of his peers.

One hundred students made up the first graduating class of Cristo Rey Dallas College Prep School that opened in 2015.

Ninety-five percent of them will be the first in their families to attend college.

"Every single person in this room has supported us, has fought for us and has prayed for us for this day to come true," valedictorian Jasmin Chavez said.

Moms, dads, aunts and uncles beamed with pride as they filled the Meyerson Symphony Center in Dallas.

The students made it through four years of private school, while completing a work study program.

As a whole, the class represented 119 college acceptances and $8 million in merit-based scholarships.

It also represented countless family members whose dreams were realized through them.

"I'm so proud of him. He has been working so hard for this, and we're very proud," said Hernandez's mom, Margarita Hernandez.

Hernandez plans to attend Marquette University.

He's one of five students in the graduating class to receive a full scholarship.

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