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.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

How do we evaluate applicants?

1. Grades

The admission committee at St. Joe's Prep wants to know what type of student you are, and your day-to-day grades give committee members an idea of your work ethic and ability. We look at your 6th, 7th, and most recent 8th grade marks - and we're looking for consistency. If you earn mostly A's throughout your time in grade school, you're in good shape.

2. Recommendation(s)

We ask that one (1) teacher - preferably math or English - submit a recommendation that speaks to your ability as a student, your behavior, your character, your capacity to deal with adversity, and your leadership traits. Additional recommendations - from coaches, pastors, family friends - are welcome, but not necessary.

3. Test

The final step in the application process is our entrance exam. This 3-hour standardized test assesses the following skills:
  • reading
  • verbal
  • quantitative reasoning
  • math
  • language
We also ask you to write a thoughtful and concise essay once the objective portion of the test concludes.

Full picture

These three (3) required items - in addition to a brief interview when you visit for a day - allow committee members to get a full picture of each applicant. Each piece of the application puzzle affects our decision as we seek well-rounded, compassionate, and courageous boys who desire to become men for others.

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