Principal Wyatt Jones III sports Loyola pin.
The education system is riddled with problems for inner-city youth. With low graduation rates, Black males are statistically less likely to graduate than their peers across gender and racial lines. Loyola High School is doing its part in raising graduation rates for Black boys and ensuring its students are prepared for life post-graduation.
First opening its doors in August of 1993, the school educated its first class of students in the basement wing of the former St. Francis Home for Boys. Under the name Loyola Academy until 1996, Loyola High School gradually increased its enrollment one grade at a time during its foundational years. Reaching full four-year enrollment for the 1996-1997 school year, the all-boys school has a rich legacy of history and excellence.
“My experience in Loyola is definitely different than most. My father was intricate in the starting and foundation of Loyola High School as the first active Dean of Students,” says Loyola Principal Wyatt Jones III, who also graduated from Loyola in 1998. “I got to experience Loyola at its inception. I got the opportunity to see that first group of people who came because they were faithful people and believed in the mission of the high school and wanted to give back.”
Now, with more than 650 alumni, the faith-based high school for young boys is continuing its legacy of excellence and education. For the 11th year in a row Loyola High School has a 100 percent graduation and college acceptance rate, setting the standard for its graduating seniors. Since the 2009-2010 school year, the high school has graduated a total of 350 young Black men. Now headed to college, these students have the world at their feet and a firm foundation and structure taught in the private Catholic school.
“That really comes off the back of our dedicated staff and faculty who come in each and every day. They answer the call. They go above and beyond to ensure our men have great opportunities. It’s also a great partnership with our parents. You have to have parents who will walk the walk with you,” says Jones.
Instilling tenacity, hard work, dedication, and above all else, faith, the Bulldogs of Loyola High School are helping to crush statistics of young Black men in the inner city. Through a series of guiding, independence and perseverance, the faculty at Loyola is prepping its students for the long haul.
“If you allow him to, sometimes, stumble, he’ll have the fortitude and that intrinsic motivators to make it when obstacles are in front of him. We intentionally allow those young men to struggle at points because we know that’s going to build that callus that they need in life, particularly being African American,” says Jones.
This year’s graduation ceremony presented Christian Greer, president and CEO of the Michigan Science Center, as the commencement speaker. While each student is off to college, the graduation ceremony honored a few of its shining stars in the graduating class. Notably, Joshua Rogers, the 2021 valedictorian, headed to Wayne State University to study 3D animation this Fall alongside classmate and salutatorian, Trevor Lile. The high school is also home to the top debater in the state of Michigan.
“We have one young man in particular, Mr. Carlos Smith. He is the number one debater in the state and we have had the number one policy debater for the last seven consecutive years,” says Jones. “We know that our young men are opinionated. We had an opportunity with Ms. Kathy Gross who is our debate moderator, to start a small program. A few years back we started this debate team and look what happened from there.”
Prevailing over a pandemic, the high school overcame barriers by providing each student with a laptop and visits to their homes for assistance with accessing WIFI. Students were also faced with issues surrounding social justice during the height of a national health crisis. Taking time to address both issues, students were given the opportunity to speak freely about the world outside of school walls.
“Our young men, as many young men, are desensitized to violence. They see this happening so often that they think it’s acceptable. We felt it was important to allow our students to have authentic and genuine conversation,” says Jones. “What we had was an open forum where we invited alumni from our school, men and women involved in the community, to have dialogue.”
In addition to academics, the high school is also giving its students experience outside of the classroom. In 2003, the Loyola Work Experience Program was created to grant students jobs to acquire skills, networking and continue to shape their business minds. The program partners with several company sponsors including Ford Motor Company and DTE Energy.
For the upcoming senior class, as success is ingrained into the school’s DNA, they will follow in the footsteps of men who have graduated and went on to impact their communities on small and grand scales. For more information, please visit the school’s website.