Not every college graduate dreams of living with his mother. But Jeffrey Weinhagen '15 is not like every college graduate.
Jeffrey is the first Johnnie to come from Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Minneapolis. He is also a member of the first cohort of "FirstGen Scholars" at Saint John's. And last month he was hired at his first full-time job and bought his first car.
Behind all these firsts is a colorful and not always easy story. Jeffrey's parents both struggled with drug addictions. Their home became unsafe for Jeffrey and his brothers, and so Marie, a staff member at the Boys' and Girls' Clubs, helped them move out and became their guardian. She later helped Jeffrey attend Cristo Rey Jesuit High School.
At Cristo Rey, Jeffrey was surrounded by Latino students and families, and he learned to embrace their language and various cultures. He had the incredible support of teachers and mentors dedicated to building his self-confidence and helping him get into college. He chose Saint John's (not accidentally, SJU is a founding sponsor of Cristo Rey and the school's leaders are Johnnies).
At Saint John's Jeffrey made an effort to connect Latino-American students with other students. He expanded the global and cultural sensitivities of the campus through his work in various clubs and organizations. He earned top grades and stayed in touch with faculty and FirstGen coaches. And he served on his senior gift committee in an effort to give back for all he'd received.
Today Jeffrey is fluent in Spanish, having studied abroad in Chile with the CSB/SJU program. He now works in the office of equal opportunity for the Metropolitan Council and is heading toward a bright career.
While Jeffrey was at Cristo Rey and Saint John's, his mother worked to become sober, and she has been for six years. He is now living with her in her home, before he decides to get his own apartment. It's his way of making up for lost time. But he also knows first-hand what a difference a little support from someone who believes in you can make. And if that's not the Johnnie way, I don't know what is.
[Editor's note: An article about Jeffrey appeared in MinnPost last June. The FirstGen Endowed Scholarship program currently funds full-tuition awards for 16 young men, and provides mentorship to graduate from Saint John's in four years. To learn more, or to help expand this program, please press the "Contact Us" button below.]