Horse-drawn wagons clamored through the streets of the 25 square miles of the city of Milwaukee in the first years of the 20th century. Immigrant populations brought with them their language, customs, foods, and religious denominations and began to reshape the young city. Just as the city of Milwaukee was becoming characterized by industry and government, so also were American high schools being defined. The high school curriculum was becoming established and reflecting a part of the American dream in that all children should be educated and able to earn a living in society. Lutheran education in Milwaukee was also flourishing, and grade schools of Lutheran congregations were becoming a means for promoting religious education, preparing children to enter the work force and American life, as well as preserving culture and language.
In 1902 Pastor August Pieper of the Wisconsin Synod recognized a need to educate the lay members of the church. There was also a growing trend and need to educate women. Professor Pieper recommended starting a Lutheran high school. Borrowing an undertaker's horse and wagon, believers in the need went around the city asking for help. By the same evening they had a faculty of volunteers and the use of one of the classrooms in Immanuel Lutheran School on 11th and Garfield. The first school was supported by a number of the larger Missouri and Wisconsin Synod congregations, including Jerusalem, Bethesda, Immanuel, Zion, and Cross.
In September of 1903 the school, then named Milwaukee Evangelical Lutheran Akademie, opened its doors to about 20 girls. The first staff consisted of volunteers who came in to teach classes such as German Language and literature, English language and literature, math, science, French, and music. While the girls never changed classrooms, the teachers dropped in on different days of the week or during different hours of the day to instruct their students. Young men began to receive instruction in the evenings, and by the high school's second year both girls and boys attended school together. The first half of the century, 1903-1955, was a pioneering period in Lutheran education. In 1903 there was only one other Lutheran high school in the country, which later closed. The high school in Milwaukee is the lone survivor of those early years.