Wednesday, December 25, 2013

How Do You Celebrate Christmas?

In today's blog post, read about how some members of the Prep community enjoy the holiday season.
Artist: Peter Binck '15

Before break started, I asked members of the Prep community three questions:
  1. What is your favorite Christmas movie/special?
  2. What is your favorite Christmas song/carol/hymn?
  3. What is a Christmas tradition or custom -  from your family, ethnicity, faith, or neighborhood -  that you cherish and would like to share?
The results are typical Prep: steeped in tradition. In a struggle between the old and the new, Frank Capra's signature film It's a Wonderful Life bested the more recent holiday classics National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation and Elf for the top spot. And it was not surprising to learn that traditional Christmas hymns like "O Holy Night" and "Silent Night" are more popular than "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" and "Blue Christmas".

So we know what Prep people listen to and watch while they count the days to December 25. Here's a look at what some of them do to celebrate:

Scott Murphy - Science 

"We go to Midnight Mass at St. Stanislaus Parish in South Philly on Christmas Eve and the cantor sings carols in Polish and then English."

Tim Dougherty '09 - Alumni Service Corps
Tim Dougherty '09 (second from left)

"My family can only decorate the tree when the entire family is back home - even if that means Christmas Eve."

Meredith Morgan - Classics 

"Italian - Seven Fishes for Christmas Eve."

Bill Avington '90 - Marketing and Communications 

"Christmas Eve was always special in my family growing up. We traveled to my grandparents (on my mother's side) with all of my cousins. We would all be together and share spaghetti with tuna. My grandfather would cook all night and the house would broil from the stove and the people but it was the greatest. That, plus the anticipation of Christmas morning, was always my favorite day of the year."

Tony Braithwaite '89 - Cape & Sword Drama Society

"As kids on Christmas morning, my dad would make us sit on the stairs for a minute until he had checked under the tree. If all was well, he'd come back and say, 'Looks like somebody's been here.' That was our cue to run in."

Marielle Watson - Modern Language

"In Germany we put our Christmas tree up only on Christmas Eve, and we also exchange gifts on Christmas Eve. Now being in the U.S. we have tried to merge our traditions. Santa now comes at night of December 24 and we exchange gifts on Christmas Day. The tree is not put up on Christmas Eve, however, we usually do it pretty close to Christmas, around December 20."

Sam Dietch - Ignatian Service

"My family has a tradition of putting cheesy Christmas decorations on each other's lawn."

Joe Donahue '63 - Religious Studies

"My wife and I visit on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day as many of the 11 grandchildren as is physically possible. We go to Mass at St. Malachy's Church in North Philly where music and fellowship are tantamount."

"My whole family gets together every year during the Christmas season to pass on among us a prize present: A huge beach towel with a life size image of Elvis. We have contests to see who gets to keep the towel from one celebration to the next. "Video and photo evidence proves that the towel has made trips all over the country."

Whatever favorite song might by playing while you string cranberries and popcorn, or whichever classic movie station your Dad landed on before losing the remote, and wherever you are this season, have a Merry Christmas.

This blog post was written by Mr. Ed Turner '00, Director of Admission.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Music @ the Prep

In today's blog post, two advocates (Martin Connor '08 and Yasmin Dhanani) talk about the Prep's Music Program and its effect on our school's culture.

Martin Connor '08
In addition to taking challenging courses, Prep students also participate in extra-curricular and athletic activities, thus receiving a well-rounded education. Some of those clubs and sports include the musical ensembles that Mr. Matthew Schwartz '02 has established in his first few years as the head of the Prep's music program.

Mr. Schwartz is the reason for the Prep music program's recent growth. More than a few students in the school’s musical ensembles will attest to this. Mike Do '14, when asked to name his favorite part of the Prep's program, said reflexively, “Mr. Schwartz!” Mike, who plays guitar and saxophone, has gotten one-on-one instruction from Mr. Schwartz not just during school hours in the Music Theory class (one of two music classes offered at the Prep, along with Music Appreciation). Mike has also received lessons in ensemble rehearsals after school, such as in the jazz band that Mr. Schwartz has been leading for several years. 

Another member of the jazz band, Joe Foderaro '15, offers similar praise for Mr. Schwartz when he says that the jazz band is his favorite part of the music program, “because it’s so energetic.” Joe, a pianist, singer, and bass player, also participates in a few of the three other new ensembles offered in the Prep music program, including the a cappella Treblemakers group and the rock band ensemble. Like most members of the Prep community, Mr. Schwartz does not only what is required of him, but also goes above and beyond to make sure that all possible resources and opportunities are afforded to any Prep music student who wants to pursue them. 

At the end of the 2012 school year, Liam McIntyre '14 wanted to attend a summer camp at the esteemed Berklee College of Music. To do so, Liam would need an audition videotape to serve as an application. With Mr. Schwartz’s help, the two were able to record, mix, and produce a video using the state-of-the-art Pro Tools technology in the recently built and donated Rooney Music Room. Mr. Schwartz's dedication not only helped Liam's admission to the camp, but also his receiving a scholarship offer from the prestigious school.

Mr. Matthew Schwartz '02
When asked about his contribution to the program's growth and success, Mr. Schwartz points out his own years at the Prep. “I’m able relate to the kids on a person-to-person basis. I’m not afraid to be ridiculous in front of them, to try and draw them out of their shells a little bit. Accurate musical instruction is important, but it’s just as important to get them involved and excited.” Mr. Schwartz elicits such excitement by allowing the students a certain amount of freedom in the direction of the program. For instance, each year he lets the students choose new pep band songs to play at football games, choices that often revolve around the most popular songs on the radio at that time.

Yasmin Dhanani (Prep Band Mom)
Yasmin Dhanani
Whether you're a fan of futbol or football (or both), one thing that transcends linguistic or cultural differences is music. Music has no teams, no uniforms, no lines of scrimmage - if anything, music brings one closer to the endzone, then reaches out and says, "yes,” touchdown!

Lisa Howard, a longtime Band Mom, and now a Prep Senior Mom (John '14), makes an interesting (albeit hyperbolic) point, “Just as the bagpipers at Waterloo, or El Alamein, inspired the British, so the Pep Band spurs the Prep football team on to victory!”

Jake Strain '15, standout defensive end for the Prep's state champion football team, said, “The Pep Band's presence during the football games is really nice to have; even during the game's action, the music still echoes and helps keep the juices flowing." Taron Hampton '17, also on the defensive line, says that “it is great to have the Pep Band during the games!”

And so my fellow Preppers, that says it all - the Prep Spirit and the motto of the Prep – men for and with others - are manifest in the stands where the fans watch the game and cheer as one, forging the relationship between the football team and the Pep Band.

Cheers to Mr. Matthew Schwartz, the Prep's Music Program Director, for making this possible.

This blog post was written by Martin Connor '08 and Ms. Yasmin Dhanani.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Getting to Know: Mr. Murphy

Let's head over to the Prep's Science Department and chat with second-year Physics teacher, Mr. Scott Murphy.
Mr. Scott Murphy

Before arriving at 17th & Girard, Mr. Murphy taught physics for three years at Mastery Thomas Charter School in South Philly where he created the physics curriculum and championed the school's AP Physics program. Murphy, a University of Maryland graduate (B.S., Physics/M.Ed.), wasted no time in getting involved at the Prep. In addition to being a force on the intramural football gridiron, Mr. Murphy is the Student Council moderator, the 2013 head freshman baseball coach, and the Prep's inaugural varsity volleyball coach (spring 2014).

Why the Prep?

I was impressed by the quality of the students when I taught a demo lesson during the interview process; I was overwhelmed by the school's facilities - particularly the science labs, and everyone I met seemed to be enthusiastic about working here.

What do you want Prep students to understand?

It depends on the class. For freshmen, I want to prepare them for the next level and teach them how to learn science. For my seniors, I want them to be scientifically literate in a modern society - to be able to analyze data, understand graphs, and to make intelligent decisions. And for my AP Physics guys, I want to give them a firm foundation, so that they can excel in any college physics or engineering class.

What do you enjoy most about working at the Prep?

It's got to be the kids. It's so rare to find a group of students who are so interested in what's going on in class. It's just a really nice place to work in that sense. The students definitely make the job.

Besides teaching, moderating, and coaching, what are some of your hobbies or interests?

I play in softball, basketball, and volleyball leagues. I like to read. I enjoy going to see Shakespeare and musical theater. Shakespeare's command of the language makes his prose interesting on multiple levels. I also like science fiction - Michael Crichton and Stephen King stories.

Have you set any professional goals?

I just became a National Board certified teacher - that was a pretty big goal for me.

Finally, why should a family consider St. Joe's Prep?

At St. Joe's Prep, you will become part of a group of students who excel in all aspects of education - academics, the arts, athletics, social-emotional learning, and service. A Prep grad is a good and complete person.

This blog post was written by Mr. Ed Turner '00, Director of Admission.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Senior Mother-Son Night

In today's post, Mrs. Ceal Biello, Director of Annual Giving and Mothers' Club Moderator, reflects on her time as a Prep senior's parent.
Mrs. Ceal Biello

Senior year at the Prep. Wow! It is a year of lasts; a year of contrasts, emotional, heartwarming and bittersweet all at once. It is a build up to graduation and, eventually, leaving home. You realize that your son has one foot out the door, carefully testing the waters, and you are torn between gently nudging him and wanting to grab him and not let go. You think back with amazement to four years ago when you were both new to the Prep and wonder where all of the time has gone and realize just how much your son has grown. 

You, wondering what the future holds, are just as anxious and excited as he is. You feel a bit of relief that you both made it to this point and the college application process is well underway if not complete. On this particular night during the Advent season, at the special tradition for seniors and their moms, sitting in the beautiful Gesu sharing one more liturgy, you are reflective, taking it all in, humbled and proud of the young man your son is becoming. 

At the sign of peace when he turns to you with his signature smile and a bear hug, your heart aches with love and gratitude – for your son, and for the Prep – an incredible partner in guiding your son to become a true man for and with others. On this night you pray in thanksgiving - for choosing the Prep community for your son to learn, grow, find himself and prepare for his place in this world. On this night your prayers are filled with hope – for the future and all that your son is yet to be.

This blog post was written by Mrs. Ceal Biello, Director of Annual Giving and Mothers' Club Moderator.

Monday, December 2, 2013

How Many AP's?

In today's blog post, Mr. Turner talks about the Advanced Placement courses at the Prep.

Many families interested in the Prep - and private school in general - often ask us for stats. They want to know the average class size for a freshman (22-25 students), the average commute time for a bus rider (45 minutes), the amount of time a freshman spends on homework each night (2-2.5 hours), and roughly how many applicants come from public schools (30%).

Some light reading
Another common question is, "How many AP courses do you have?" Of the 34 AP courses that are available from the College Board, the Prep offered 15 last year:

  • English Language
  • English Literature
  • European History
  • Psychology
  • US Government
  • US History
  • Calculus AB
  • Calculus BC
  • Computer Science
  • Statistics
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Physics
  • Latin
  • Spanish Language

We not only offer nearly half of the AP syllabus, but our students, maintaining an overall above-average pass rate, also excel in these classes. 

Opinions about AP courses vary and we at the Prep do not ignore the conversation or the controversy. At the same time we're proud to say that we offer what are generally recognized as some of the most challenging courses available in secondary education.

This blog post was written by Mr. Ed Turner '00, Director of Admission.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Were you ready?

In today's blog post, Mr. Turner '00 chats with Dan Barbella '10, Prep alumnus and fourth class cadet at the United States Military Academy.

Each year during the short Thanksgiving week, it is not unusual to see several young Prep alumni, home from college for the holiday, roaming the halls, dropping in on classes, and saying hello to former teachers. I was lucky to see former student and current fourth class cadet at West Point, Dan Barbella '10.

Dan was here, as he has been for the past three years, to talk to Prep students about service academies. Dan and I talked about his future plans, and I learned that not only is he interested in macroeconomics, but also that he wants to be a helicopter pilot. "Not a bad way to spend your everyday" is how Dan put it.

Dan Barbella '10 (right) at West Point
I couldn't resist asking Dan if he felt prepared for West Point's demanding schedule and high expectations. His reply?

"Absolutely. There's a similar standard here at the Prep in terms of self-reliance and personal accountability. In addition, academics and ethics are intertwined. And most important, I'm reminded constantly of my commitment to something greater than myself. The Prep does it right."

Of course, I agreed.

This blog post was written by Mr. Ed Turner '00, Director of Admission.

Friday, November 22, 2013

JFK: 50 Years Later

Mr. Joe Donahue '63, Prep religion teacher and moderator of the golf and basketball teams, reflects on his experience on 11/22/63.

November 22nd, 1963 - On that day and in that moment, almost every American, alive and alert, stopped and cried and wondered what was happening to our world. For the first time in my life, I had no answer, not a clue as to why that weekend in November fifty years ago stopped the world and many wished to get off and start over again.

My lifelong friend, Vince Curran '63, and I were headed to Alumni Fieldhouse on the campus of then St. Joseph’s College, now the University. On Fridays, we had the afternoon off from classes and we wished to shoot some hoops prior to a freshmen basketball practice. It was a tad after one o’clock. As we entered Coach Jack Ramsay’s office, his secretary told us the President had been shot in Dallas, Texas, just moments before.

Media was comparatively slower and smaller fifty years ago. And, as the players filtered in to that small, cramped office, there was a sullen quiet pervading that space. Yes, for the first time, the world had apparently stopped and no one wished to speak; we just wanted to watch that small, 13-inch black and white screen. Stunned and shocked would best describe the mood in Rambo’s office. “Rambo” was our nickname for the venerable and future Hall of Famer, Dr. Jack Ramsay, Saint Joe’s head coach. This pre-dated the advent of the other, violent Rambo, decades later. Around 2 o’clock that afternoon we all heard the soothing tones of Walter Cronkite, America’s newsman par excellence, finally reveal what all had dreaded to hear … “President Kennedy died … at 2 PM, EST, just 38 minutes ago”.
Americans cried just as Cronkite cried. Coach Ramsay called off practice that weekend and I, dumbfounded, trudged back to Barry Hall, packed my few belongings in my satchel, and headed toward 54th and City Avenue.

In those days we traveled by the thumb. So, I began to exercise that digit on my right hand and headed east toward the river. Shortly, a beaten, old 1952, faded green pick-up stopped. The door was thrown open and I hopped in, not really thinking much more could go wrong on this day. How wrong I was. The only thing which looked and smelled worse than the truck was the driver. Ugh! Old newspapers, emptied coffee cups, rusted pipe and broken LP records abounded in this so called vehicle. I actually was able to blot it all out and just concentrate on the fallen, beloved President . After all, here I was – seventeen, a freshman in the Jesuit College, one year out of the Prep, very naive, and now heading for the Olney section of Philadelphia and my home, and quietly stunned and quite moved by the event of that afternoon.

All of a sudden, much to my shock, this wretch driving towards Bala Avenue, out of nowhere, utters a vulgar and profane slur against our fallen President. And then another, and another, until finally, I awoke from this nightmare in November, and commanded this person to “stop the truck … now”. He had wished JFK dead, and as if he had pulled the trigger from that mail order rifle, I just had to get out of that doomsday machine. This follow-up event to our world being shattered now wasted me. I just started walking and thinking. Why do people exist who do evil things, say evil things, and think evil things? And walk I did, and contemplate the answers to those puzzling questions. No answers, just onward towards WCAU, and then onto Monument Avenue and across the Falls River Bridge, the trek started. Through East Falls, Manayunk, Roxborough, West Germantown. Mount Airy, this sojourn continued a slow, deliberate pace going nowhere other than home, still searching for answers. Through East Germantown, Logan, Fern Rock, and finally, Olney, my home, my dad with some answers, I prayed.

As I entered our home at 325 West Godfrey Avenue at almost 9 p.m., six-and-a-half hours after leaving St. Joe’s, my Dad looked up from his usual stance of reading the now defunct Philadelphia Evening Bulletin and asked me not about the President’s death, nor about my own brush with a deadened spirit in a dreadful pick-up, but rather why was I home? This was atypical since usually after a practice I would stay at St. Joe’s for the weekend practice. Remember, there were no cell phones, in fact there were very few dimes in my possession that I could make a pay phone call. I did not call him to tell him anything probably due to shock. Now he was the shocked one, why was I home? After a long exposition, Dad told me that there were evil people in our world who just do the wrong thing. It woke me. It changed me and my world. I aged a lot that weekend and watched more TV than I would ever have the chance to again. Media was all  over this. It was the birth of constant news.

And many a reporter was introduced to the questing public who just wanted to know what was going on in our world. Names like Cronkite, Chet Huntley, David Brinkley, Bob Schieffer, Dan Rather, and countless other young reporters now became the news media on which America thrived for answers. And this media has not lost a beat since that terrible day.

And answers we got but not, I do believe, the whole story. Hopefully, those answers will someday be found, though many miles will be tread again before their revelation. “And miles to go, before I sleep”, as the poet Robert Frost had written before that other New Englander, JFK, had arrived on the political scene. And Frost had been a part of that Kennedy infusion at his inauguration in the bitter cold of January of 1961. I am reminded of Frost’s words from the same poem, which earmarks for me that awful day with the phrase found at the end of an earlier quatrain:

Between the woods and frozen lake   

The darkest evening of the year.   

This blog post was written by Mr. Joe Donahue '63, Prep religion teacher.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Teach Me

Several Jesuit colleges and high schools across the US take time out of each academic year to experience, reflect, and act upon certain aspects of their Ignatian identify. Mr. Sam Deitch, the Prep's Director of Ignatian Service, chats about our own Ignatian Heritage Days.

Our theme for Ignatian Heritage Days this year is Teach Me. All members of the Prep community are encouraged to partake in any of the programs being run throughout the week. Pins will be distributed (see image to the right) to the entire school community as a symbol of our faith and Ignatian identity. These pins are an outward sign of our constant need to learn more about ourselves, others, and God. Take a look at some of the things we are doing this week and next:

  • The ThanksgivingFood Drive will continue all next week until November 26. Each student is asked to bring in at least 5 items of his homeroom's assigned food product. Our homerooms then deliver the baskets to the local community at the end of Mass on the 26th.
  • 8 students and 3 adults attended the Ignatian Family Teach-in for Justice this past weekend in Washington, D.C. The Teach-in is a conference run by the Ignatian Solidarity Network focused on social justice issues.
  • Each morning during homeroom, our Teachers Being Taught series will take place. One teacher, each day, will talk for few minutes over the PA to the school on a prompt that begins with Teach Me…  
  • A Prayer Service for the Philippines will take place on November 21 immediately after school in the Chapel. We will pray on the two-week anniversary of Typhoon Haiyan making landfall and in solidarity with those who have suffered and died. Afterwards, a conversation will take place about what we can do to assist those in the Philippines.
  • Dress Down Day on November 22 will support My Brother’s Keeper, an organization dedicated to helping those dealing with homelessness and substance abuse in Camden, NJ. The desired contribution is $5 for the Dress Down Day and the entire community can wear t-shirts, sweatshirts, polo shirts, jeans, shorts, and sneakers.
  • Ignatian Lunches for faculty and staff will be offered in the Xavier Room during a different lunch period each day. This will be a time of prayer and reflection in order to give thanks.

This blog post was written by Mr. Sam Deitch, Director of Ignatian Service.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Drama @ the Prep

Mr. Tony Braithwaite '89, popular Philadelphia stage actor and director of the Prep's Cape & Sword Drama Society, talks about this fall's production, the growth of Prep Drama, and the magis.

"The greatest sin against the Holy Spirit is being boring."

I first heard those words as a Prep student - in the eighties - from a young Jesuit named Fr. Ryan Maher, S.J. (who is now a great friend). And I have said those words a lot myself, especially as I work to make sure that the shows at the Prep are anything but boring. In fact that's why I was hired.
In 1994, then-Principal Fr. Herb Keller, S.J. (who is also now a great friend) asked me to take over Prep Drama. Fr. Keller wanted me to make Prep Drama as solid as Prep Crew or Prep Football.  He wanted me to make the Prep shows better than any other schools' shows. He wanted it to be competitive to even get cast in the shows, and hoped that student audiences would find the shows actually interesting and funny. That's not something that happens very often, as the sad reality is that most high school theatre is boring.       
So for twenty years, the students and I have worked hard every day in that glorious theatre - striving for excellence the same way Prep athletes do; striving to make Prep shows truly good and not boring; striving for the magis, the more. Jesuit philosophy has little tolerance for mediocrity of any kind, especially in theatre. 
And things have been going swell for us. We have done shows no other high schools do (some high school world premieres even), and today over 15% of the entire Prep student body is involved in some form of Prep Drama (including, for two years running, the Varsity Crew Team in our annual Night of Scenes). The shows sell out, we get nightly standing o's, and we receive praise from parents and faculty alike. 
But much of that could be considered de rigueur for many schools. In fact, there's no real way to quantify how we're doing. We don't get the determining W or L the way a competitive sports team does. So, how do we know?  How do we truly know if we've, "won"?
Here's one way: a few years ago our head football Coach Gabe Infante came to see our production of The Producers. And he was so impressed by what he saw that he wanted the whole team to see the show. He tricked them into thinking they were coming to an evening practice, but instead they attended one of our final performances. And they loved it. Let’s be clear – the entire football team cheered on the drama kids at a play. That just doesn't happen at other schools, anywhere. But it happens at the Prep. And that's a W, a win. (In fact we won over a nationally ranked team!)

Next up for us is The Laramie Project, and we open November 15th. The show is actually a bit of a departure for us, for although we've done heavy stuff in the past (Death of a Salesman, 12 Angry Men, A Few Good Men to name a few) it's not our usual fare. But I invite you to come see what's on display on the Prep stage, to come see what Coach Infante saw, and to come see why Prep football players like Prep plays. 
Come see The Laramie Project. It won't be boring. 

This blog post was written by Mr. Tony Braithwaite '89, director of The Cape & Sword Drama Society.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

6 Tips for the Practice Exam

Applicants for St. Joseph's Prep Class of 2019 will take the Prep's practice scholarship/entrance exam this weekend. We asked Mr. Brian Kearney '99, Prep Classics teacher and test prep tutor, if he had any tips.

1. Think with your pen, not with your head.

You can think about ten different things all at once, but only write about (or work on) one of them. Stay focused by writing, working, moving forward.

2. Don't proceed to the next question until you've eliminated at least one choice.

In other words, save your work. If you return to a skipped question without first making some notes or attempting to reduce your options, that's more time and mental energy wasted.

3. Don't guess until you have 5 minutes left in a section.

Use the bulk of each section's time on material that you can work through confidently.

We in the admission office want to add a few more:

4. Sleep well.

The quality of your sleep can impact your mood, energy level, and ability to concentrate.

5. Eat breakfast.

The all-important first meal of the day is said to improve focus, attention, and emotional well-being.

6. Be grateful for the opportunity.

Grateful people, besides being nicer, are said to be generally more determined, more energetic, and more optimistic. So be sure to thank your parents many times before you take the test.

This blog post was written by Mr. Ed Turner '00, Director of Admission.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Go Forth

"The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page."
- St. Augustine

Summer Service
Although you will spend the majority of your days as a Prep student on campus, we know that a classroom is not defined by desks and walls alone. Your teachers, coaches, mentors, and peers will encourage and sometimes require you to take a field trip.

Here are just a few places where Prep students have gone - near and far - to learn, compete, and serve:
Prep students arrive at 17th & Girard from all over the Delaware Valley. What's more impressive, however, is where they'll be able to go once they get here.

Andrew Weber '02 in Kenya
This blog post was written by Mr. Ed Turner '00, Director of Admission.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Getting to Know: Ms. Gulli

Let's head over to the Prep's Modern Language Department and chat with second-year Spanish teacher, Ms. Gina Gulli.

Ms. Gina Gulli
While studying at LaSalle University (secondary education/Spanish), Ms. Gulli observed classes at Central, Northeast High, and her alma mater Cardinal Dougherty (2007), before completing her student teaching at St. Hubert's. Before landing her first teaching job in the States at the Prep, Ms. Gulli - a Harry Potter aficionado and accomplished Quidditch coach - taught at a public high school in Madrid. Although she is Philly-bred (Lawncrest, St. William's parish), Ms. Gulli, who knew she wanted to be a teacher in "first grade", misses her Spanish friends and Madrid's superb public transit system.

Why the Prep?

I've always heard good things about the Prep. And after teaching at St. Hubert's, I understand the value of a single-sex education. The position was open, it seemed like a good fit, so I submitted an application. I'm thrilled that it worked out.

What do you want Prep students to understand?

I want to give them an appreciation for other cultures; to make them aware of other customs through holidays, cuisine, and of course, language. It's so easy for a teenager to be consumed with his daily responsibilities that he often forgets that there's an entire world, with people whose lives are so very different, beyond his neighborhood.

What do you enjoy most about working at the Prep?

My students. In addition to teaching a full course-load (5 classes), I moderate two clubs: the Junior Statesmen of America (JSA) and the Harry Potter Club/Quidditch Team. The groups could not be more different - but each group brings the same enthusiasm and curiosity. It's wonderful.

Besides teaching, moderating, and perusing the Quidditch rulebook, what are some of your hobbies or interests?

I really love to sing. On Sundays I sing in a choir at St. Katherine of Siena in the Northeast. And during the summer I read. It's tough to read during the academic year because I'm so busy.

Have you set any professional goals?

I've already accomplished one: to become a Spanish teacher at a school that I love. I've also started graduate classes at LaSalle for an M.A. in Translation and Interpretation.

Finally, why should a family consider St. Joe's Prep?

In this truly caring environment, there is something for everyone. Whether you're an athlete, a debater, or a Harry Potter nerd like me, you can find your niche at the Prep.

This blog post was written by Mr. Ed Turner '00, Director of Admission.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

3 Reasons Why I Love Diners, Drive-ins and Dives

As the fall admission season winds down, Mr. Turner '00 explains why he loves Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.


Winner, winner - chicken dinner
Thank God my wife loves this show, because I watch it whenever it's on. Triple-D attracts me not only because of the great food, but also because of the passion that comes through from the owners. Many of these folks have taken big gambles and have made huge sacrifices to follow their dream of opening a restaurant. They've been rewarded by success, yes, but more remarkably by a loyal and fervent fan base. These are not customers - they are fanatics and they want others to share in the experience.


Guy and his crew, sampling unique dishes from Maine to Florida, the Jersey Shore to Hawaii and all points in between, have covered a lot of ground. Each joint has something special - Jamaican jerk chicken in Philly or pierogies in Cleveland, for example. All of the places, however, love to serve their fans and refuse to cut corners. In all they do, there is a commitment to excellence and service.


The next time you travel to visit family or friends, I'm sure your hosts have their favorite spot where "everybody goes" and it's "been here forever. And oh yeah, their meatloaf is the best!" I'm jealous because Guy gets to visit these places all the time. He's able to experience historic eateries that mean a great deal to those who cherish them.

Although Guy and I don't have the same job, my co-workers and I do get a taste of similar passion, diversity, and tradition each fall as we visit over 70 grammar schools in the Delaware Valley. I marvel at the community, excellence, and character that these schools - private, parochial, and public - cultivate. I compare our visits to Guy's - they are an opportunity to witness the ingredients that make a place great. If you want to see what makes St. Joe's Prep great, come to our Open House.

If Mr. Fieri comes back to town soon, I have a few spots he needs to visit.

This blog post was written by Mr. Ed Turner '00, Director of Admission.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Why Latin?

Classics Department Chair, Mr. Dougherty '93, shares his thoughts on why we teach Latin at the Prep.

The Roman orator and statesman Cicero once wrote: "Not to know, however, what happened before you were born is to remain always a child." The study of Latin helps our students understand our linguistic, cultural, religious, and governmental foundations. The goal of a Prep education is, after all, to prepare Men- not children- for Others. Latin is but one way to reach that lofty goal.

"Why study Latin?" is certainly the most common question that we entertain each year at our Open House. In recent years the number of schools that offer it, or require it, has increased nationally, and there is good reason for the re-introduction of this discipline into the modern curriculum. Approximately 65% (or more, according to some studies) of English words are derived directly from Latin. A significant amount of original Latin is still in use in law and medicine. The study of Latin grammar and syntax can result in a far better understanding of the mechanics of English and can significantly improve both written and oral communication skills.

Those students who study Spanish or French after studying one year of Latin will have a strong basis in the vocabulary and grammar of the modern language. In addition to these and other practical benefits, we in the Classics Department are hard pressed to find a better reason to learn the language than gaining an ability to read its literature. Latin literature is at times described as beautiful and possessed of a clarity of expression unmatched by any the world over.

Such sweeping generalizations can be debated, but what cannot is the fact that Latin literature has always been the backbone of the Western literary canon. Vergil, Horace, Cicero, Caesar, and Ovid were required reading for some of the world's greatest writers and thinkers. To know them is to gain new insight into Dante, Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, Voltaire, Swift, Freud, and countless others. To read the Roman historians in the original- like so many of our Founding Fathers- allows our students to understand more fully the governmental system that so influenced our own. Of all the disciplines in the Prep's curriculum, none has so broad an impact. Latin crosses over into and informs nearly every class during a student's day. Perhaps the better question is "Why not study Latin?”

This blog post was written by Mr. Michael Dougherty '93, chair of the Classics Department.

Monday, October 21, 2013

College Counseling @ the Prep

Ms. Romm on a visit to U. of Michigan
As I begin to write, I reflect on my last four years at St. Joe’s Prep. I would be remiss if I didn't share with you that I love my job, and the same can be said for my colleagues in College Counseling. Working with our students is an act of cura personalis, a phrase meaning care for the whole person. As college counselors, we are most interested in helping your son find the best college for him. Benchmarks like GPA and standardized test scores help guide us in this process, but Mr. Halligan, Ms. Pinto, and I work beyond the numbers to help our students identify their top priorities in the college search.

Prep students receive a college counselor assignment halfway through their junior year. As parents, you may wonder what you and your son can do before then to get a leg up. Start with career exploration and keep it light and fun, so your son does not view this as a chore. Through conversation, help your son identify fields he does well in but also enjoys. He can then research job options within that field. Visit one of my favorite sites not only to see a wide range of jobs for each field, but also to find potential employers, and to receive great tips to get ahead.

It can be easy for our young men to veer towards well-known colleges. Remind your son to stay open to colleges that may be off his radar, especially those farther from home. Colleges aim to build freshman classes that represent all 50 states, so your son’s application will stand out nicely in Arizona, Ohio, and sunny Florida. Keep in mind there are Jesuit colleges and universities located all over the country, so if your son craves a caring, faith-based, service-oriented community, he has excellent options both in and beyond our Tri-State area.

As your college counselors, we offer services that anticipate and meet the needs of our students and parents. We enjoy working on career and college exploration one-on-one with our students as well as guiding them through college applications and the college essay. In the classrooms, we cover several topics, including major selection, demonstrating interest to colleges, and essay writing. We also host multiple evening presentations and workshops for parents, including panels of college admissions reps, financial aid nights with college directors of financial aid, and Junior and Senior Parent College Nights to prepare our parents for the road ahead.

Although the college process, with its many layers, can appear intimidating, the ends will absolutely justify the means. Words cannot convey how gratifying it is to see our students - your sons - excited and ready to head off to college at the end of their senior year.  From beginning to end, and even beyond, know that your college counselors will be here with you and your son every step of the way.

This blog post was written by Ms. Amy Romm, College Counselor.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Getting to Know: Mr. Greene

Let's head over to the Dean's Office and meet the Prep's new Dean of Students, Mr. Albert Greene!

Equipped with prior experience in law enforcement and charter school administration, Mr. Greene comes to the Prep with a background that serves him well in his new role. After earning bachelor's (political science) and law degrees from the University of Pittsburgh, Mr. Greene wore many hats (admission director, athletic director, dean of students, teacher) at New Media Technology Charter School. Prior to his tenure at New Media, Mr. Greene worked for the FBI. His posts include Omaha, NE and New York City, where on September 11, 2001 he witnessed the collapse of Tower 2. While sprinting away from the falling building, he said that, "in a nanosecond", thoughts about his life, his loved ones, and his God "raced through his head." Mr. Greene still has not finished decorating his office because he's waiting to find the "right picture of that day".

Why the Prep?

I chose St. Joe's Prep because of its outstanding reputation and because I was looking for new challenges. Having attended an all-boys private school, I appreciate the difference and value of single-sex education, so it seemed like a good fit. And I couldn't be happier.

What do you want Prep students to understand?

I want our students to know that yes, I'm friendly - but fair. I strive to treat all our students the same. And I want them to understand that they are expected to be respectful, responsible, and accountable.

What do you enjoy most about the job so far?

The first thing about the Prep that I noticed was the camaraderie - among both students and staff. You don't see that at other schools. I also like that there is no routine day here. Such unpredictability makes things exciting.

Outside of keeping Prep kids in line, what are some of your hobbies or interests?

I love to cook. Grilling in the summer is probably my favorite thing. I've been known to binge-watch Grill It! with Bobby Flay until 3 a.m. just to learn about a new spice rub or grilling technique. I also like to exercise - running and biking, mostly.

What's one goal you've set?

I'd like to establish what I'm calling Dean's Lunches, an informal yet structured program where I'll - slowly but surely - get to know every student in the building while also providing those students the opportunity to get to know each other.

Finally, why should a family consider St. Joe's Prep?

If you're looking for the perfect balance of a challenging curriculum and a true sense of community, then the Prep is for you.

This blog post was written by Mr. Ed Turner '00, Director of Admission.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

What the Prep has meant to me


It’s a word that every all-male high school in the Philadelphia area throws out to describe itself. From the outside, it’s easy to tell that the Prep has a lot of it. One look at the stands at a Prep-LaSalle football game, at a basketball playoff at the Palestra, and in the theater on opening night reveals throngs of Prep kids, taking time out to support their brothers in all that they do.

But the Prep brotherhood is more than even that.

The Prep is challenging. Every kid here was the smartest, most athletic, or most musically talented person in his grade school. Freshman year, reality sets in. Every Prep student has some moment where he isn't successful. Yet when he comes to the Prep, a group of kids going through the same experience and a group of teachers passionate about helping him surround him. At some point during the hours on the sports field, in the classroom, and the commute to North Philadelphia, you realize that you've become a much more confident, stronger version of your freshman self, and that you have found 250 guys who are willing to do anything for you.

Prep brothers
As the years go on, the bond gets tighter. Kairos and service trips bring the brotherhood to center stage, embracing a mix of Ignatian spirituality and carefree adolescence. Suddenly, there is no other group of people you would rather be with more, inside or outside of school. Freshman year, you go to football games because you feel like you should in order to get involved at “the Prep”, cheering on distant upperclassmen athletes. Senior year, you’re going to football games because those distant athletes have become your best friends, and you want to do nothing more than root on your brothers while surrounded by 500 more - every single one of you chanting, “P-R-E-P. PREP! PREP! PREP!”

The bond here is indescribable. It doesn't truly sink in until senior year, but looking around the dining hall at the faces you've seen every day for 3.5 years, you know. You know that every person there is willing to be there for you when you’re feeling down. Every person considers you his brother, and you consider him yours. And that is what Prep brotherhood is all about.

This blog post was written by Bobby Loftus '14, student council president.

Monday, October 7, 2013

The Commute

"How was the traffic?"

That seems like a question you'd receive after you've made the journey downtheshore for vacation. Whether you're partial to the speed and convenience of the AC Expressway or the scenery and farm stands of the back way, there is a need for some mental preparation in order to endure bouts of heavy volume and the occasional gaper delay before you depart. Because we've all experienced the good and the bad, we tend to ask, "How was the traffic?", as we anticipate the exquisitely painful details.

Prep guys ask different questions when it comes to their daily commute. Since our students all know the commitment and sacrifice it takes to attend the Prep - and since they know how privileged they are to be here - they inquire about the passengers and the playlists rather than the construction cones or the traffic jams. They're curious about the conversations and the bad jokes, instead of the number of red lights caught, or how many stops signs there are in Drexel Hill. 

All roads lead to the Prep

It's easy to focus on the negatives when it comes to the Prep commute, but that approach ignores what Prep guys learn rather quickly - namely, that the road is the thing (as Kerouac said). To get the most out of their Prep experience, our guys take the good with the bad, the detours with the scenic routes, the potholes with riding shotgun. In the end, the commute is not only an avenue to a St. Joe's Prep education, but also a crucial part of it.

This blog post was written by Mr. Ed Turner '00, Director of Admission.