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Good to Go Blog

At St. John's, good knows no bounds. It's greater than great academics. Here are snapshots of what it means at the Prep. Something amazing happens when you're open to good!

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When the Best-Laid Plans Go Sideways

What happens when a school event seven months in the making gets cancelled?

Model UNIf you’re a well-oiled machine that empowers students to regroup with the support of teachers and administrators, then adaptation and resilience become the rule rather than the exception. A perfect example of this dynamic within the Prep community is the recent postponement and rescheduling of the 12th annual St. John’s Prep Model U.N. Conference.

On Saturday, December 9, more than 700 delegates from nearly 50 schools across New England were scheduled to attend the event, forming committees to address each of 16 separate global issues. Elaborate briefing papers crafted throughout last summer by members of the Prep’s Model U.N. Club (MUN) were to form the basis of committee discussion. But in an early harbinger of what’s turning out to be a brutal winter, wind-blown snow was predicted to descend on the region beginning on the evening of December 8.

Throughout that Friday morning, schools began declining their invitations to SJPMUN XII due to the iffy weather forecast. By early afternoon, the partnership within and among key constituencies of the Prep community had kicked into gear. Assistant Principal for Student Life Wendy Olson called an emergency meeting with MUN membership. What ensued was a calm and measured dialogue primarily driven by student input.

“We all brainstormed a variety of ways that we could make the conference work with an impending snow storm, but we kept coming back to wanting this to be a great experience for everyone,” recalls Mrs. Olson. “The students concluded relatively quickly that having some schools miss out due to the storm and either shortening the schedule or removing speakers and programs would not be our best option. Our MUN team is well traveled and have attended many conferences. They know what they want the student experience to be, and that trying to run a conference overshadowed by hazardous travel conditions, cancelled programs, etc. was not going to provide that experience.”

MUN team Secretary General Chris Jerrett ’18 picks up the story from there.

“When we all got together and considered all the alternatives, we knew we had to cancel,” he says. “The first thing we did was make sure we reached out to all the moderators at other schools to inform them. After many months of hard work, postponing the conference was a huge disappointment, but I think that after working together as a team, we were eager to prepare for the conference a second time together. We are hopeful that we can take advantage of the new timeframe to get the most out of work we previously completed and make the event run even more smoothly.”

Choosing a date to reschedule was equally challenging. The original, December 9 date conflicted with no school sporting events an no competing conferences. But the team, the student life office and club moderator Mrs. Pamela Bronder-Giroux persevered and played the hand they were dealt, eventually settling on March 17, 2018.

“It’s not ideal, because it does conflict with a MUN conference at Boston College, as well as with spring break for some private schools, but it was the best date available,” says Jerrett. “We have already heard that some schools won’t be able to attend, but we intend on leaving a legacy for the club with this event and we’re hoping to recruit new schools to achieve the same numbers we had coming back in December.”

For her part, Mrs. Bronder-Giroux, just like her team, is focused on upside.

“In every conference, certain planners get overworked, and don't have time to properly pull in an underclassman to shadow them and learn the job for next year,” she explains. “This reschedule gives us a chance to do that better. Also, the new conference date falls on the the weekend between winter and spring sports seasons here at the Prep, so we can offer the MUN experience to more St. John’s students who might be able to try it out, especially underclassmen. Our students put in an astronomical amount of work writing their briefing papers—they are very motivated to make this happen.”

One of the hallmarks of a Xaverian education is a powerful emphasis on the development of relationships rooted in respect and kindness. The first step every student takes onto this campus animates a partnership—amongst the students themselves and between students and adults. The positive and productive outcome to what could have been a wholly disheartening experience vis-a-vis the Model U.N. club is an excellent illustration of this partnership in action.

“I was more than impressed with the way the students handled this disruption,” says Mrs. Olson. “Model U.N. isn’t just a club. It’s a forum in which students learn about leadership and about taking any situation they may find themselves in and influencing for the benefit of others.”

Posted by Mr. Chad Konecky on Tuesday January 16 at 12:37PM
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Advice for College-Bound Seniors

Let's face it. There's no substitute for talking to someone who's been there, done that. Especially when you're a high school senior wondering (and dreaming) about life in college.

College-Bound Seniors at SJPThat's why the School Counseling Department at St. John's invites recent grads to return to campus and talk with seniors about their experiences in college. When a group from the Class of 2016 shared time with the Class of 2018 recently, we asked them for their best advice for college-bound seniors.

Gathered around a table in Memorial Dining Hall on a frosty day in January, the collegians represented a range of schools—Boston College, Brown University, Northeastern University, St. Louis University, and Villanova. At the midway point in their sophomore year, they've all settled on majors that include accounting; business/finance; chemical and biochemical engineering with minor in religious studies; economics with a minor in history; and international relations with focus on international development. They're striking out on different paths, but they all agree on the best principles for success in college!

Be True to Yourself

Heading to college gives you a clean slate, but that doesn't mean starting over as a different person. Stay true to yourself when you leave the familiar environs of home and high school. Use the values and lessons you've learned at home and at St. John's to inform the decisions you make. Make sure that what you do aligns with who you are—and who you want to be.

Keep Your Door Open

Everyone is in the same boat at the beginning of freshman year. Take advantage of meeting new people and exploring new opportunities. Consider Ben Fisher '16. He says he found an instant group of friends when he joined the powerlifting team at Northeastern. "It quickly became a group of people I could study with. Plus, the captains understood what it was like to be new in college. They'd taken the courses we were taking. They become mentors."

Manage Your Time Wisely

College life is less structured than high school, which means it's essential to stay on top of your work. As Jay Carnevale put it, "No one else will walk you through it." Finding a good organizational tool is the key. Whether it’s a journal, Google calendar, a simple notebook, or a big whiteboard on your dorm room wall, pick a system and stay with it. It’s also important to strike the right balance between academic and social life. Opportunities abound in both realms. It’s up to you to figure out how to get the best out all that college has to offer.

Take a Risk

Grab the opportunity to challenge yourself academically. Heads nodded in agreement when one member of the group recalled Dr. Matt Ford from the Prep Science Department telling them, "If you’re not taking a course that makes you struggle, you’re not doing it right." Remember about keeping your door open? Well, keep an open mind when thinking about courses to take and opportunities to explore.

WE'D LOVE TO SEE YOU ON CAMPUS TO LEARN MORE!
Posted by Mr. Chad Konecky on Thursday January 11 at 01:41PM
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HOW TO WRITE BETTER IN FIVE EASY STEPS

At St. John’s, we believe that the more students write, the better they write. As they’re exposed to different styles across disciplines, each student has a chance to develop his own writing voice and maximize his comfort level with composition.

This overarching mission is supported by the Prep’s Writing Center, which offers students one-on-one consultations with full-time, trained writing coaches to assist with any stage of the writing process. The mission of the center staff is to guide students toward becoming confident and independent writers who will succeed at the Prep and beyond.

We asked them for their top five secrets to writing success...

KNOW YOUR ASSIGNMENT

It’s critical to print out a copy of any writing assignment so you can have an eyes-on approach. This tactic will allow you to identify and break down the specific requirements of the project. It’s also helpful to highlight or underline precise components of what is expected for the successful completion of the assignment. Students who visit the Writing Center report that switching back and forth between screens to check the details of a writing assignment is unproductive and can even result in unpleasant discoveries once they print out the requirements and give them a close read. Use this tip to avoid moments like: “Oops! I needed five sources, not three.”

PRE-WRITE, THEN WRITE

Give yourself 10 minutes (by all means, use a timer) to scribble any thoughts and questions about the topic that come to mind. Feel free to make a mess. By creating a list of all possible ideas, you're doing the hard work in a low-stakes format. This technique makes it easy to filter out the junk and spare yourself the heartache of writing into a dead end once you compose an actual draft. Jumping right in to typing into a Word doc puts unnecessary pressure on every writer to come up with quality content right away. That’s a recipe for a whopping case of Writer's Block!

STAY ON TARGET AND DO, DO, DO READ ALOUD

Once you land on a good thesis, highlight it in a bright color within your draft. This way, it's easy for you to loop back as you tackle your body paragraphs and ask yourself that critical question: Am I really proving my thesis? (P.S. It’s normal to tweak your thesis as you draft). Reading your draft out loud is an excellent way to catch errors on your own. Writing Center staff at the Prep frequently ask students to read their work in front of them before a formal discussion session of the paper begins because it’s so important for students to understand how their writing sounds. Better to have those cringe-worthy, what-the-heck-was-I-trying-to-say moments before you hand in your paper.

FOCUS ON YOUR VERBS

Dull verbs make for dull papers. If you slow down and think, it usually results in generating two or three better alternatives to boring verbs like “is” or “have.” Sometimes, upgrading your verbs requires you to restructure your sentence, but fear not, it’s worth the effort. The more varied your word choice and sentence structure, the stronger and more readable your writing becomes.

SIGNAL PHRASES ARE YOUR FRIENDS

Learn signal phrases and use them. A signal phrase is a phrase or clause (or even a complete sentence) that introduces a quote, indicates who is speaking or sets up the delivery of information. Many students err by inserting “drop quotes” or “quote bombs” in their papers, which results in a lack of proper context or missing transition that is necessary to distinguish a shift from their own writing to someone else’s. Signal phrases are the cure. The Writing Center provides its student clients with a sheet of handy MLA signal phrases as a reference. Some examples (with sample citations):

  • At the end of the novel, Paul reflects, “I should have grabbed that trophy when I had the chance” (Smith 80).
  • According to John Bigmouth, “Only 15 percent of young adults prefer talking on the phone to texting” (18).
  • When Chen finally discovers her biological father, she laments, “The stroke had robbed him of his ability to speak. For all I know, he could have washed away four decades of mystery with a simple sentence” (Chen 243).

The Writing Center’s services include discussion of texts and writing assignments, assistance with planning and outlining, grammar and mechanics support and strategizing for meaningful revision. Available to writers in grades 6 through 12, at all levels, the Center is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm and is located within the Prep’s Center for Learning and Academic Success (CLAS).

Posted by Mr. Chad Konecky on Monday January 8
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