Who goes to St. John's? Students come to the Prep with many different outlooks, interests, and talents. But they all find plenty of room to explore and grow during their four year at the Prep. Here are a few of their stories.
Brandon - China
“Open your mind completely to new things—challenge yourself!” That’s what Brandon tells fellow students is the key to getting the most out of the Prep experience. As one of the Prep’s international students, he has found a home away from home at St. John’s.
“I found that the Prep and I have a lot of the same interests, and the Prep can be my lifelong friend! After a year of studying at St. John’s, I truly believe that this was the right choice. I have developed my character, gotten along well with my classmates, and excelled in my classes,” Brandon said.
He offers a unique perspective coming from China, and has found life at the Prep fun and also challenging. “There were no real surprises as much as culture shocks. For example, classes in America are about discussions, debates, and presenting yourself to the classmates, while in China, teachers are the center of the classes. I can clearly remember the time we acted a scene from one of Shakespeare’s play in my English class freshman year. It gave me a vivid understanding of his works. Also, my school counselor helped me choose classes that suited my knowledge, which ensured that I would be challenged, yet fully able to participate in class. I can’t believe that I can start to learn economics and calculus when I am just 15 years-old! And I am so excited that I am going to learn songwriting in a music class I am taking,” Brandon said.
He also appreciates the easy camaraderie with fellow students at St. John’s. “My classmates are so friendly. I don’t even feel like I am in another country! We study, hang out and play sports together. They have showed me what brotherhood is all about.”
Robust after-school clubs are also something Brandon loves about life at St. John’s. “Clubs help you discover your talents and passion for a subject, and they can even help you determine your future career. I joined a lot of clubs!” Brandon said. “I enjoyed the Investment Club and Model UN. And I was able to set up a brand new club with some talented friends who share my same passion for making videos. In the Film Makers Club last year, we made a video for St. John’s Prep and it’s on the website now. This year we hope to complete even more video projects. This is the amazing part of American education: you can follow your dreams!”
Estarlyn - Lawrence
“Do not be afraid of the future, be open with yourself, try new things that challenge you, and you will learn many things about yourself,” Estarlyn ’17 says passionately. A sophomore now, he shares these words of wisdom with new students on campus, remembering when he first arrived at the Prep last year, unsure of the road ahead.
“I was scared because I wasn’t sure if I would fit in with the rest of the groups. But at orientation, I was introduced to LUNA (Latinos Unidos en Accion) and since the first time I walked into room 309 after school, that group became like my second family,” Estarlyn smiles. “They were so welcoming to new members of the club and they were open minded about everything!”
Since then, Estarlyn also joined the Art and Design Club, Prep Brothers Unite, the Spire Society, and the Outdoor Club. “I also join Campus Ministry on some of their service opportunities such as the Xaverian Connection, where students spend time with the retired Xaverian Brothers. And I joined the wrestling team in the winter and the spring track team in the spring. Now St. John’s Prep has been like home for me. The people here have taught me ways to grow both physically and mentally. I feel I couldn't be learning as much about myself as a person if I did not choose to go to the Prep.”
Estarlyn says he has learned life lesson along the way that he will take with him wherever he goes. “After worrying about making new friends, stressing over several exams, and putting up with late nights of school work, I learned that no matter how difficult things get, or how many times I fall down on the ground, I always need to get back up on my feet and try harder again,” Estarlyn said.
“I hope that I can influence others and motivate them to work hard to achieve their goals in life. I believe that being a role model in a humble and caring way is the best gift humanity can ever receive because it helps us fight our worst battles together and help one another in times of need. I just love what I have experienced at the Prep so far because I know that whatever the community gives me, I give back to them as well.”
Ben - Swampscott
When St. John’s hosted SJPMUN VIII, a regional Model UN conference, Ben Cormier ’15 could be seen with his walkie-talkie strategically coordinating the immense event. As the Secretary-General for the Prep’s Model UN club, organizing the nearly 500 student ambassadors from more than 30 schools was all in a day’s work.
Ben never imagined that he’d become the leader of one of the school’s largest clubs when he first came to St. John’s. It was the Aviation Club that caught his eye before he even came to the Prep. “The Aviation Club with Brother Tim Paul was one of the main reasons I decided to go the Prep. When I was chosen to take flying lessons, I met friends who also did Model UN,” says Ben.
Being involved in clubs has given Ben key leadership opportunities. In Model UN, where students debate national and world issues, learning diplomacy skills is something that Ben finds he uses in every day life.
“I have learned how to state your point without sounding arrogant, and how to negotiate and work with others while still keeping yours stance,” Ben says adding, “At the Prep I’ve learned a lot about respect. At the Campus Ministry retreats we focus on compassion and understanding – that is one of the biggest things. Respecting everyone, whether you disagree with their opinions or they are rubbing you the wrong way, you can still give them the respect they deserve.”
In freshman year, Ben took Global Studies with Mr. Joel Boutin, which also inspired him. “That class got me to think about things in a different way. You learn to see both sides of an issue; it definitely gave me a great foundation in diplomacy,” Ben said.
The respect and kindness everyone shows on campus makes Ben proud. “There really is a brotherhood here. Everyone is looking out for each other,” he says. His advice for incoming students: don’t be afraid to get involved or ask upperclassmen for help.
“I only got involved with Model UN and computer science programming, because an upperclassmen invited me to come to the club. Don’t be afraid to talk to upperclassmen.”
Nolan – Beverly
Imagine being a relatively shy freshman, new to campus and deciding to try out for the Prep’s big musical. That is exactly the gumption Nolan showed when he tried out for “Spamalot,” the Drama Guild’s fall production. The decision to jump right into life at his new school, turned out to be the perfect introduction to the Prep stage.
Nolan was cast in the role of “Dennis Galahad’s Mother.” This hilarious character of an old woman gave Nolan a chance to showcase his personality and sense of humor to the Prep community.
“I was struck by the hospitality of the upperclassmen in the Drama Guild,” Nolan says. “They really welcomed me and treated me like an equal. And it was a great way to instantly have a group of friends on campus.”
Nolan, who is a St. Francis Xavier Merit Scholar, admits that settling in the first few weeks on campus was a little tough. But as soon as he began to open up and was himself with his new classmates, things started to click. He also figured out how to balance homework with his new host of other activities.
“I love that the Prep has an acceptance for all sorts of kids,” he says. “I’m friends with kids who are athletes, kids who have more academic interests, and plenty of drama friends. Kids at the Prep see past those superficial things and don’t just associate you with a kind of group. You make friends with people based on their personalities and intelligence.”
The chance to meet new friends, be challenged academically, and participate in clubs like SwingTown!, the Prep’s own a cappella singing group, hit just the right note for Nolan. “Did I mention that being here is fun? It is – I love the Prep.”
Trevor - Georgetown
“It is cool to be smart at St. John’s,” Trevor says. “If you are struggling with a class and you ask your friends to hang out, they encourage you to get your work done first, offering help if needed, and THEN we can hang out., Trevor says. “It is inspiring to be around people who love learning and want to excel.”
That passion for excellence has propelled Trevor to be a leader at the Prep. Elected to be senior class president, Trevor is also an honor roll student and active participant in many student groups such as the Jewish Student Union, Model UN, and the tennis team. He has also traveled to Taiwan with his Mandarin class, and taken trip to Washington, DC, to lobby on Capitol Hill as a delegate with Jewish student groups.
Trevor said that when he came to the Prep he could immediately sense how enthusiastic the teachers were . That was a game changer for him. “Their energy level was so high – you couldn’t help but look forward to going to class,” he says.
“I never had an interest in history before the Prep, but Mr. Nance got me so intrigued with it. At home I wanted to stay up at night to learn more and try to figure things out so I could come to class and ask solid questions.”
Trevor’s passion for history cascaded to other areas of his life, including understanding the roots of his own Jewish religion.
“Coming to a Catholic School and being Jewish is very interesting. I was surprised that not only did coming here grow my Judaism, but it opened my eyes to other cultures and religions,” Trevor says. “Things are a lot more diverse here than you might think. Jewish, Catholic, atheist, Buddhist – there is no difference between us.”
That willingness to be open to everyone you meet is one of the lessons that Trevor said he will take with him from his Prep experience.
Naaz - Beverly
“I knew the studies would be rigorous at St. John’s, but I’ve learned that it’s not just about your grades. It’s about your life, your community, and how you can become a better person and a better global citizen.”
Learning about world cultures is important to Naaz, whose parents came to the United States from India. His own travels to visit family in India have expanded his worldview, and make him want to know more about how people in different parts of the world live.
When Naaz came to the Prep, he was glad to find that students shared his interest in different cultural perspectives.
“I’m in Spanish class with kids who speak Spanish at home, and they speak with the teacher very easily. At first, I couldn’t understand much, but now I can and it makes me very happy. People in other parts of the world live differently, and St. John’s Prep shows you that.”
Music is a big part of life for Naaz, who started playing the sax in the sixth grade. He plays in the Prep concert band and belongs to the Woodwind Club. Musicians like Dave Brubeck and Duke Ellington inspire him, and he hopes to start a band with friends.
More than anything, it’s the teachers and students who make Naaz glad he decided to come to St. John’s.
“The environment here is great. I want to be someone who can do well and take care of my family some day, and students here share those same dreams. You make friends with people who have their futures in mind, and I like that. The students here are amazing, and the teachers are just as good.”