By Bob Castello
The students in St. Joseph’s Catholic School’s Class of 2019 have been extraordinary in many ways, having set the bar high before clearing it with room to spare.
They have made an impact in all areas, providing further evidence of the words of SJCS Founding Board Chair Margaret Ann Moon: “Our students are destined to change the world.”
It’s a class that has been stellar statistically, with 96 percent of the senior class having reported being awarded at least one scholarship, totaling a little more than $20 million.
With 99% having reported their acceptances, all have been accepted to at least one college or university, including three who will be attending Cornell University, and 99% reported having been accepted into their first and/or second choices.
But it’s a class that has been about much more than numbers.
“We want to pass on to our students that we as human beings find our fulfillment only when we give of ourselves in love to others,” Headmaster Keith Kiser said. “This is one of the reasons we require our students to do community service, for they often discover that they are happier when they do something good for others.”
Every year, for example, the students who go on the senior mission trip talk about the manner in which it has changed them.
“This reality was illustrated for me in spades this year when our student council led the student body in raising over $40,000 for St. Anthony of Padua Catholic School,” Mr. Kiser said. “Those kids worked themselves to exhaustion, but I’ve never seen them happier. The hope is that they will remember this experience and want to spend their lives for others.” Campus Minister Gabe Lewis, who came to the school in 2013, said he’s had the pleasure of accompanying members of this class since they were in the seventh grade.
“Learning is a function first and foremost of openness — those who are open, who know they don’t have all the answers, are able to ask questions and truly learn,” Mr. Lewis said. “This class was full of students who were and, more miraculously, remained open.
“Those who are honest with their need and their questions become the protagonists of meaning among their peers. Over and over again, I have witnessed members of this class becoming sources of energy and light for their peers because they do not hide their need for more, their desire for meaning. When Christ said, ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit,’ he was speaking of hearts like these, who are able to recognize Christ and follow Him when He calls.”
It’s a close-knit group, 56 of whom have been together at St. Joseph’s since the sixth grade.
“The Class of 2019 has always been focused on forging strong ties with one another,” said Steven Jones, Director of the High School. “They’re very supportive of their peers, but what impresses me most is the way they’ve always been happy together. The athletes come to the Fine Arts performances and seem genuinely happy for their friends. Likewise, the students have been very supportive of the various teams at St. Joe’s. It’s not just that they go to whatever is on campus — they enjoy being together.”
It’s a class that has produced more than its share of talented athletes — 13 will be moving on to compete collegiately — and they’ve led the Knights to great heights.This year, St. Joe’s added five state championships (boys swimming, girls and boys cross country, volleyball and boys track) to its collection and won yet another Carlisle Cup as the best athletic program in the state in its classification (2A).
“This is truly a remarkable senior class,” said Athletic Director Eric Nash. “They are the first class in school history to win four straight Carlisle Cups. More than 10% of our senior class is going on to play college athletics and 12 of them at Division I programs. I’m not sure what other schools’ numbers are like, but I’m guessing we have a very high percentage moving on to play college athletics. This senior class not only has some great athletes but exceptional students and leaders as well.”
Fine Arts Department Chair Teresa McGrath said it’s been “an absolute joy and privilege” to work with the students of the Class of 2019 for the past seven years.
“The students who have been involved in the Fine Arts have been dedicated in pursuing their interests and passions, gifting their time and talent to be a part of something bigger than themselves,” Ms. McGrath said. “In every project and production, they have brought enthusiasm, collaboration and determination to overcome challenges and obstacles.
“They have been inspiring and courageous leaders, creative individuals and joy-filled young adults. I have no doubt that these students will use their gifts to be ‘the salt of the earth’ and ‘the light of the world.’ ““This has also been a class that embodied the old adage that ‘iron sharpens iron,’ ” Dr. Jones said. “These kids have pushed each other to succeed and at times pulled each other along.”
As an example he cited the new aeronautics class, which “threw a couple of kids a curveball because no one knew what to expect.”
“For some of them, it wasn’t what they thought it was at all,” Dr. Jones said, “but I saw small groups emerge that helped each other get through the material. They really turned it into a kind of club and were genuinely happy when many of their peers passed the national exam.
“There was a real sense of camaraderie in the class, and that’s been true of these students all along.”
“Our kids are very talented and motivated,” said Mr. Kiser. “They are leaders, and so they will be in a position to change lives for the better. We want them to see that their fulfillment is deeply tied to loving and serving others. If they come to realize this through their personal experiences, they will set the world on fire for good. That’s our hope.”