Messmer High School
Messmer High School's history began in 1925 when Monsignor George Meyer first acted on his dream to establish a great Catholic high school on Milwaukee's north side. Meyer met with neighboring pastors to discuss plans for secondary education and the possible construction of a high school building. Soon the idea was approved by Archbishop Sebastian Messmer, and the dream started to become a reality.
On September 13, 1926, 166 students filed in the St. Elizabeth's school building on 1st and Burleigh and became the first graduating class of what was then called Diocesan High School. Father Celestine Bittle, O.M.C. became the first principal, and the faculty consisted of six nuns.
The school grew so rapidly that on registration day in September, 1928 it was noted that there were "more students than room," and three more teachers had to be hired. It was during this school year that Diocesan became Messmer High School, a name suggested by Louis Spitz, one of the students in the class of 1929.
The problem of space reached crisis proportions in September of 1929, and construction of a new school building began during the 1929-1930 school year on the corner of 8th and Capitol Drive. At a cost of approximately $750,000, the stately building was designed for nine hundred students.
Messmer continued to thrive in the fifties, sixties, and seventies, establishing itself as a city-wide leader both in academics and athletics.
However, in February of 1984 the Archdiocese announced Messmer would close due to declining enrollment and rising costs. However, a determined group of Messmer supporters kept alive the vision of a school that would not die. With the help of the DeRance Foundation, Messmer reopened in August of 1984 as an independent, Catholic school.
Slowly, the enrollment began to rise with then principal and current president Br. Bob Smith. Although the early years were an important time in Messmer's history the vision has taken on a slightly different form than it had sixty-five years ago. It was just a little over six years ago that the Board of Directors of Messmer Catholic Schools put into place a plan to provide a kindergarten through high school continuum of quality education for Milwaukee’s urban families. The plan included a completely renovated and expanded elementary school for the new Messmer Preparatory Catholic School. That beautiful new facility was completed in 1999.
Messmer Preparatory Catholic School
In 2000, Messmer added Messmer Preparatory Catholic School, serving grades K4-8, to form Messmer Catholic Schools. Located in the Riverwest neighborhood of Milwaukee, Messmer Prep now boasts an enrollment of over 400 students.
St. Rose and St. Leo Catholic School
In 2007, at the request of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, Messmer assumed management of St. Rose and St. Leo, then known as the Catholic Urban Academies. Now fully integrated as part of Messmer Catholic Schools, St. Rose and St. Leo Catholic School has an enrollment of over 400, allowing even more of Milwaukee’s youth to receive a high quality education.
Today, both the high school and the elementary schools are filled to capacity serving over 1,600 students and their families. Messmer serves a diverse racial, religious and economic population with African American representing 80% of the students followed by Latinos, Caucasians, and Hmong students. In addition, over two-thirds of the students qualify for the Milwaukee Parental Choice program meaning that most students served at Messmer are living at or below the federal poverty line. For the most part, the remainder of the students receive all or partial financial aid and scholarships through Messmer student aid.
Messmer has an extremely high graduation rate and over 85% of those who graduate from high school attend a four-year college with the balance of the students attending two-year programs, the military, or taking employment.
Messmer has and continues to provide a solid, Catholic education in the heart of city of Milwaukee.