With a $9 million donation from the Sobrato family to fund scholarships, more Cristo Rey Jesuit High School students will have the opportunity to fulfill their dreams of attending Santa Clara.
Rachel Stattion ’24 is flourishing at Santa Clara University. A sophomore double majoring in political science and women’s and gender studies, Stattion is passionate about law, social justice, and policy advocacy.
She’s found a tight-knit community in SCU’s Multicultural Center and LEAD Scholars program, which supports first-generation students. Stattion sees the University’s Jesuit values play out all around her—in her friendships, in the classroom, and through the work she’s done with student organizations. After graduation, she wants to help people who need it, pursuing a master’s degree in women and gender studies, East Asian studies or international relations.
But the life Stattion built at SCU almost didn’t happen. Like many students at Cristo Rey San José Jesuit High School, Stattion had the grades to attend a prestigious four-year college, but she didn’t have the money. Her only option to continue her education after graduation was to enroll at a two-year college.
Thankfully, she was offered support from Santa Clara’s Milligan Family Scholarship for Cristo Rey students. Not only did it make college possible, it allowed her to pick a major without the worry of taking on loans and debt. “I’m very grateful for that because it really helped me understand what I’m actually passionate about,” Stattion says. “Because of that, I feel really fulfilled.”
Now, thanks to a life-changing gift from John A. Sobrato ’60 and his family, many more Cristo Rey graduates like Stattion will have an opportunity to build their own lives at Santa Clara. The Cristo Rey and SCU trustee, along with his family, have committed $9 million to establish the Sobrato Family Scholarship Endowment, supporting four-year scholarships for Cristo Rey students around the Bay Area to attend SCU.
The gift will support students from Cristo Rey San José Jesuit High School, Cristo Rey De La Salle East Bay High School in Oakland, and ICA Cristo Rey Academy in San Francisco. The schools are part of a national Cristo Rey network that integrates college preparatory academics with professional work experience through a corporate work-study program. The network aims to empower first-generation students from families with limited economic means, with the Jesuit mission at its core. If there are no incoming students from these schools, the scholarship endowment will help other first-generation college students across the Bay Area.
“We have long held that education is the gateway to opportunity and we hope this gift will make a great education accessible to more talented young people ready to contribute to society in their own unique and important ways,” says Sobrato.
Silicon Valley’s exorbitant cost of living means many Cristo Rey families live paycheck-to-paycheck and struggle to meet basic needs, making the thought of paying college tuition seem “incomprehensible,” says Jenny Uribe, a Cristo Rey college counselor and director of university access and success. Uribe and College Counselor Stephanie Mendoza closely guide students through the college application process.
“Students may have worked really hard in high school and that opens up a lot of opportunities for them,” says Uribe. “But then they see that some colleges cost about $75,000 a year. In some cases, that’s more than what their parents make in a year. At that point, college just isn’t a realistic option.”
The Sobrato family’s gift will serve as a critical lifeline for these students, who may not be able to afford tuition at a private university, while also freeing them of loan debt after graduation. SCU has already accepted 21 Cristo Rey San José students for early admission who are eligible for the scholarship money if they commit to Santa Clara in fall 2022, according to school administrators.
“When we talk to our students about what schools they’re applying to and what schools they want to go to, oftentimes the bottom line is, can they afford it?” says Adolfo Guevara, interim principal at Cristo Rey San José. “They have to think about housing, books, and more. I think what’s special about this gift is that they are given the opportunity to not only think about the money aspect and the financial package that they’ll receive, but about being connected to a school that reminds them so much of our school because of the Jesuit connection.”
That connection will give students a sense of home on campus—a vital element for first-generation students that often determines their success in college, says Guevara.
“That feeling of being at home and still having that connection with Cristo Rey and with people who are on their team is what makes this gift so special. It gives kids the opportunity to go somewhere where they’ll know they’ll be taken care of, where they’ll be loved and reminded to take care of their whole self,” Guevara says.
This pipeline from Cristo Rey to Santa Clara will help the university cultivate a diverse student body that better reflects our society, says Eva Blanco Masias MA ’11, vice president for enrollment management. An estimated 92 percent of Cristo Rey San Jose’s roughly 480 students in 2020-21 were Latinx, meaning they come from a variety of Latin American cultures or ethnic identities, with diverse experiences, backgrounds, and beliefs. Ninety-one percent will be the first in their families to go to college, and 75 percent are eligible to receive free or reduced lunch there at Cristo Rey.
“For universities and institutions, especially one like ours that has a very distinctive mission of service, it’s important that we are a microcosm of the larger world,” says Blanco Masias. “When we bring students together who have so many rich experiences and see things through different lenses, students leave SCU with a better understanding of others.”
Jim Lyons, vice president for university relations, says he hopes the gift plants new seeds of philanthropy across SCU and beyond.
“At Santa Clara, we pride ourselves in giving back to our community in meaningful and long-lasting ways,” says Lyons. “We hope the Sobrato [family’s] gift inspires others to join our mission so that students from all backgrounds have an opportunity to receive an education immersed in the Jesuit tradition.”
Asked what his hopes are for his students after graduation, Cristo Rey San José’s Guevara paused several times to hold back tears.
“My hope is that, when and if they choose Santa Clara, that they know that they belong,” says Guevara. “It’s so important that they know that no one is giving them a handout. That they are there because they truly belong and deserve it.”