Not only is Maura Maloney an assistant principal at St. Ignatius, she’s also an alum—and so are her kids and dad. “That’s not atypical,” she says of the Catholic school. “We have a lot of families in their third generation here.”

What is it about the school that keeps families coming back? “We are a rigorous academic experience with a very palpable and omnipresent Jesuit identity and culture with a diverse student body in an urban setting,” says Beth Carney, director of admissions. “Lots of schools have some of those things, but we are the only one with all of them.” Those rigorous academics include 24 AP classes and newly bulked-up STEM offerings, such as robotics, engineering, and computer science.

Diversity is another point of pride. The student body of 1,450 is 34 percent minorities and made up of kids from 295 elementary schools across 160 ZIP codes and three states. “That shows a unique intentionality,” Carney says. “Not every 14-year-old kid is willing to walk into a somewhat imposing campus, jump in headfirst without knowing anyone, and maybe take a train and two buses to get here.”