Advice from the Flight Crew

A few age-old adages for our departing seniors- prior to take off.

Each stage of an airline flight conjures up its own sentiments.  The launch is exciting, the middle leg mixes smooth air with turbulence, the descent comes with a sense of anticipation- the relief of deplaning and the eagerness to alight on one’s feet, to go.

Our St. Thomas Aquinas High School Class of 2016 is advancing ever closer to Sunday, the day in which they will reach their long-sought destination: graduation. As their four year journey comes to an end and as we celebrate their final steps with them, we offer some timeless reminders that are important to their enjoying a safe and happy journey.

Pre-Flight Advice

Did you pack your bags yourself?

Mostly. Your ingenuity, your capacity for knowledge, your willingness to access and accept new information belongs to you, absolutely. You are the ultimate creators of your own education by being able, willing and ready to absorb all that our faculty and staff impart to you. However, although your lockers are empty and your backpacks discarded, it is wise to remember those who prepared you for the journey ahead. The teacher who challenged you, the coach who tested your inner resolve, the custodian who taught you kindness by example… remember these folks not only in your memories. Remember them in your prayers.

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Would you like an aisle seat or a window seat?

Choose that window seat, Seniors. Don’t let life pass you by but rather embrace the wonder, the color, the magnificence of God’s beautiful world with respect and awe. Regardless of your faith perspective, you have been introduced to a collage of thought andchapelwindow philosophy that deepens your perspective and lends credence to your opinions. Embrace the windows in your life- sit near them, open them widely, and allow as much sunshine to pass through it as you are able to stand.  Be that light for someone else.

Your flight time will be XX hours and XX minutes. You will be flying at a set altitude of XX feet/meters at a ground speed of XX miles/kilometers per hour.

When others try and limit you, remember all that St. Thomas Aquinas High School whispered to you: Aim High, Soar Higher. Go Above and Beyond. Set Your Expectations High, Then Wave as They Go By.

You have been given an outstanding education by your parents and by your educators. Know that even as the door closes behind you, this school is ever supportive of your ambitions, your dreams, and your aspirations. Don’t let the world tell you how high you can soar. Set your target goals high- then, yes, wave as they go by.

At this time, make sure your seat backs and tray tables are in their full upright position and that your seat belt is correctly fastened.

Be safe. Be healthy. Sit upright. … Be safe.

Also, your portable electronic devices must be turned off.

As much as you may not want to hear it, don’t forget to look up. Turn off the devices, tuck away the cell phones, walk away from the screens sometimes. The best relationships are borne of words, of gestures, of eye contact. The time you spend on a device is time you could have had smiling at a friend, writing to a grandparent, hugging a parent.  Grow in real time and space- don’t lose yourself in cyberspace.IMG_1732a

You may experience turbulence during flight.

This is one of life’s unfortunate truths. You will experience ups and downs, smooth roads and rough patches. There will be periods of clear sailing and times fraught with stormy seas. When the hill seems insurmountable or the road too long, call upon the faith that embraced you here at St. Thomas Aquinas. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27

Prepare for Take-Off

The true purpose of a good flight plan does not lie within the intricacy of longitudinal and latitudinal coordinates. The significance of a good flight plan is that it present points of navigation so that pilots are aware of both foreseeable hazards and endless flight possibilities.

Your flight plan has been uniquely individualized- scribed by you, reviewed by your instructors, overseen by your parents. Lay the map widely before you and remember you are top-flight.

Go, Seniors. Your wings are ready.

Go. And soar.

Last Blast

 

 

 

 

 

Winterterm 2016: Making Knowledge Meaningful

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Much research and work have been dedicated to showing how learners’ imaginations can be routinely engaged in everyday classrooms. An Irish contemporary educational philosopher, Kieran Egan, has even attempted to change education on a global scale by emphasizing the uses of imagination. Rather than focusing on the literal or the actual, Egan suggests that imaginative education enables students to go beyond what is mastered and think of all that might be possible with a certain concept or philosophy. Apart from education models that rely upon notions of storage and retrieval (banking knowledge), imaginative education seeks to value and build upon the way a student understands his/her own experiences. To do this successfully, educators must also be imaginative and sensitive to dimensions of learning that perhaps had heretofore been considered irrelevant.

Imaginative education, as coined by Mr. Egan, is a different way of viewing education. However, the essence of what he’s getting at- tapping into the iWordlemagination of both teacher and student and using it to spark further learning- is at the heart of a St. Thomas Aquinas High School education. At St. Thomas Aquinas, faculty commit a great portion of their time to use their imagination, ideas, materials and practices to bring curriculum to life. And although this happens consistently throughout the school year, the approach is perhaps best exhibited in the annual Winterterm program.

 

In four very focused, very intensive days, our high school students step out of the traditional instructional atmosphere and pursue an area that not only interests their intellect but also their imaginations. Kaleidoscopic in its offerings, Winterterm allows our students to stretch their minds and their aspirations. When imagination is allowed to flourish, students realize that limits are merely self-imposed ceilings through which one can easily pass. Whether one tries scuba diving, builds an underwater remotely operated vehicle or slips into ballet classes for the week, each student is challenged to try something new. True, the “try” may require some “umph,” but we like to package this in the end as “triumph”.

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Unlike other species, human beings have a unique gift in their ability to imagine. It allows one to explore ideas or things that are not clearly visible in the present environment or, in fact, even real. The beauty of imagination is that notions, ideas and concepts are generated from “within” rather than perceived as a result of data from “without”.  The utilization of imagination may apply in a multitude of cognitive processes such as planning, hypothesis formation, comprehending language, design, creativity and engineering.

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As we prepare our students to enter into their selected Winterterm laboratories, we look forward to celebrating their attempts, their successes and, mainly… their imagination.

 

To Be Cool vs. To Be Courageous: A Teenager’s Timeless Dilemma

 

Anyone who has ever tried to raise a teenager knows how challenging it is to keep him/her safe. And not just from the obvious lurking dangers but also of those that insidiously present themselves behind the doors and windows called “poor choices”. Anyone who has tried to raise a teenager also knows that even the best laid instruction, plans and guidance can sometimes fall wayside to simple primal (and often middle-of-the-night) pleading- “Lord, please protect him/her from harm.”

STA graniteBut as much as we want our teenagers to be safe, we also want them to develop the skills and reason necessary to choose safety. All too often during adolescence, young people feel barraged with mixed messages. Their parents, teachers, community leaders lay the foundation of good character. Unfortunately, sometimes the voices of their peers, pop stars, and even social media “friends” can redirect their moral compass. For many young people, trying to successfully navigate their way through this season of life means trying to stay true to their ideals while making sure they seem “cool” in the eyes of their peers. This makes the presence of positive role models ever so vital.

The Importance of Positive Role Models

One of the unique advantages for St. Thomas Aquinas High School students is their school is guided by a mission, one fortuitously and carefully created by the School Sisters of Notre Dame. This mission lays a foundation upon which each student walks, a foundation paved by the light of the Gospel. Whether Catholic or not, all of our students hear that they are valued, they are unique, they are special. In four years, the STA faculty and staff strive to impart a message that each young person’s differences and distinctions are meant to be celebrated, not criticized.

In our school community, students find adults that model good character and integrity; they see people who advocate for self-discipline and honorable behavior. Being a good role model does not mean to preach with haughty authority or stand with a sense of perfection. Rather, it means to lead from a center of goodness where intention and virtue meet humility. These three characteristics can be readily identified in a global persona who recently addressed our American youth. And it just so happens, he makes for a very good role model.

Pope Francis

A Papal Challenge to the Youth: Walk with Courage

In early September, Pope Francis gave a virtual papal audience to three U.S. Cities: Chicago, Los Angeles and McAllen, Texas. Regardless of one’s feelings on pontiffs, many would agree that there is nothing “virtual” about this Pope; he is the real deal. Perhaps one of his most lauded traits (by Catholics and non-Catholics alike) is his humility, his ability to meet the world’s people on their own level. Because of his earnest and genuine communicative nature, he is able to instill his message, God’s message, directly into the hearts of his listeners.

During his recent address, Pope Francis was asked what he expects from today’s young people. He answered with a resolute response: courage.

“Life is difficult; it’s difficult to walk alone. You get lost. You get confused. You can find the wrong path. Or the worst- you can stop because you get tired of walking. Always walk hand in hand with someone who loves you, someone who gives you tenderness. Walk hand in hand with Jesus.

More students walking in to schoolThe first thing I hope for you young people is that you allow yourself to be accompanied with good company.

In my country, there is a saying that it is better to walk alone than in bad company. Each young person has to seek someone in life to help them along the path- someone that will help you to face things in life.

I hope that young people walk with courage.

Do you know how sad it is to see a young person who has no courage? Courage gives you joy and joy gives you hope, which is a gift from God. It’s true that there are difficulties on life’s path- many of them. Don’t fear the difficulties. Be prudent, be careful, but don’t fear. You have the strength to overcome.

Don’t be scared. Don’t stop. Always move forward with courage and with hope. And if you ask God, God will give you those things.”

Live with Conviction

How to teach young people courage… that is the ultimate challenge. But it is worth the inquiry, and it is certainly worth the effort. For once courage is developed, a person can live with conviction and this, as Pope Francis knows, affords one the gift of lifelong contentment.

Living with conviction means standing up for what is right and good and true even if a circle of “friends” suggests the opposite is “cool”. It means waking each day with an inner fortitude that can sustain one through tempting moments. It means treating others and oneself with respect. It means seeking maturity. It means facing the fire despite the heat. Sometimes it may mean  enduring whisperfootball tackles, overt criticism or even isolation.

Courage means having the inner conviction to move forward even when it feels as if the world is trying to tackle one’s mission. It means throwing the foul flag even when it’s not popular to do so.

In his words, Pope Francis implies that life itself is much like a race. It is a continuous process of leaping over unseen hurdles, avoiding pitfalls, gaining stamina, pacing oneself so as not to fatigue. Running a good race means not succumbing to the pressure to run like someone else- someone who has different goals, different qualities, different values. Living with conviction means keeping one’s eyes on the prize- and running in that direction.

Close up runner girlAt St. Thomas Aquinas High School, we believe in helping each young person identify his/her innate gifts, advance his/her abilities and develop each one’s inner courage. Time always tests one’s virtues but, with courage and conviction, one can accomplish great things with grace and pride.

Always move forward with courage and with hope. It is a journey of endurance, this thing called life. Thank you, Pope Francis, for reminding us of this fact. May our St. Thomas Aquinas teenagers leave our school having learned the importance of choosing what is “right” over what is “cool”. And may their acquired courage accompany them as they pass each of life’s mile markers.

May they always have the courage to go the distance and the understanding to know that there is triumph… simply in following the mission.

Cross Bearing Shannon Graduation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Enter and Leave Freely: Final Remarks to the Class of 2015

To the Members of the Class of 2015 of Saint Thomas Aquinas High School:

Due to a scheduling conflict, I will not able to attend your graduation ceremony on Sunday.  Mr. Ron Fussell, the associate superintendent, will attend in my stead and convey greetings and congratulations from Bishop Libasci and from me.

I was invited to offer a few remarks addressed to you on the school’s blog.  So here it is: my first ever blog entry!

I am sure that you have all heard of the great Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy and perhaps you have even had an opportunity (or had the task assigned to you!) to read some of his writings, such as Anna Karenina or War and Peace.  It is not well known that there was a short period of time in his life when Tolstoy became very much involved in education.  He was concerned that the peasants who worked on his family’s estate, Yasnaya Polyana, and indeed all the peasants in Russia, never had the possibility, because of the rigors and demands of the manual labor that comprised their lives, to learn to read or write.

So, based on his own theories of education, Tolstoy started a school for the children of the peasants.  You students will like this part about his school: there was no structure to the day, there were no lesson plans, there were no exams, and there were no grades.  What the teacher taught was entirely dependent on the students’ interests at that time and could change whenever the students wanted to change.  You parents/guardians will like this part: the school was entirely free for the children and also for their parents.  Tolstoy posted a sign over the doorway to the school which read “Enter and Leave Freely” and he meant it.

The school and the education Tolstoy wanted to provide had really only two goals: first, to know and to speak the truth; second, guided by the truth, to do good at all times and toward all people.

Truth and Goodness: these have been the hallmarks of your education here St. Thomas Aquinas High School and even more so for you than for Tolstoy’s students because in your study and in your spiritual life and in your service to others you have had an opportunity to know and love the One who is Truth itself and who is Goodness itself: Jesus Christ.  Equipped with these life lessons and guided by the Spirit of our Risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, may you always be to others a source of truth and goodness.

I wish you Godspeed in whatever paths your life takes you.

~Rev. John Fortin

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Parting the “Read” Sea

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How Do St. Thomas Aquinas Students Stand Out From the Crowd?

(And, in a sea of qualified applicants, what are colleges really looking for in their applicants?)

In John F. Kennedy’s 1961 Inaugural Address, he said famously, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” If you’re swimming in the pool of college applicants, great wisdom can be found in these words. Tweaked ever so slightly for the eager and ambitious young college applicant, one formulates a new question: “Ask not (only) what your college of choice can do for you, ask what you can do for your college of choice.

While many adolescents consider a college appealing either because of its program, its location, or its proximity to future opportunities (and while all of these reasons are very valuable and important), it is also important for an applicant to demonstrate what s/he can do for that college of choice. What assets, what contributions can s/he as an incoming freshman bring to that school and its community?  What makes him/her stand apart from the other hundreds/thousands of applicants? To best answer this, it helps to know what colleges are most seeking in their candidates.  And how helpful St. Thomas Aquinas High School actually is in designing students’ proud portfolios.

The Basics 101

1. Curriculum

Every college wants to see proof that an applicant will succeed academically at their institution. Admissions Committees are seeking candidates who have already been exposed to a rigorous class schedule as this demonstrates a willingness on the part of the applicant to challenge him/herself, an assumed intellectual curiosity and an acquired stamina for hard work.  Fortunately, for St. Thomas Aquinas students, this box has been well checked on our students’ applications. Superiorly prepared for college and beyond, our graduates leave ready to advance in college as informed and cultured learners. They are accustomed to rigor, equipped with time management skills, empowered by their education and enriched by their servants’ heart.

2.  Grades, Rank and Scores

No matter which way one slices it, a transcript sprinkled with top marks will always be favorably received. The same holds true for impressive standardized test scores. Like it or not, colleges use these factors as a way to measure and compare incoming students from one another.

The Extras

Even centuries later, it pays to be a Renaissance child.

When colleges scan applications, they look for diversity both in their applicants but also in their applicants’ skills, abilities and interests. While colleges like to know their incoming student body will be focused, they still want to see proof of character.  Character is best enriched by experience in outside-the-classroom activities, something that St. Thomas Aquinas High School excels at in its curriculum and in its after-school programming.

The most successful applicants are well-rounded high-achievers. Particularly at selective schools, there is a growing preference on the part of Admissions Committee Members to look for “quality over quantity”. Evidence of passion, leadership, initiative, and commitment can change an application from getting the once-over to being carefully IMG_2133placed in the “keeper” pile.

Fortunately, students at St. Thomas Aquinas are well indoctrinated in the merits of extracurricular opportunity. From the first day of Freshman Orientation, students are informed and introduced to a wide variety of after-school clubs and activities in which they are invited to join.  If they don’t find something that grabs them, then they can grab Opportunity by its arm and create a club of their choice. This “open playing field” fosters a healthy environment for students collectively and individually. Everyone at St. Thomas Aquinas gets to partake in any club, sport or extracurricular that interests them and, by participating in one or many of the offerings, they develop precisely what those Admissions Officers want to see.Blue Job Hike

Survival of the Fittest

The latest million dollar question that schools, colleges, organizations and even career industries are asking is …will this person be a good fit?  When assessing STA graduates, Admissions Committees’ resounding answer will likely always be “yes”.  How can one say that with such assurance?  Because our students here are taught to be learners of both traditional classroom instruction and also the experiential process: learning through reflection on doing.  As a supplement to the previous, this latter technique launches graduates who can process, reflect, adapt and advance.  In other words, they will be a good fit because they have been taught to be so.

There will always be the “other factors,” the factors that one cannot control and yet will inevitably play some role in one’s application evaluation. Geographical diversity, athletic prowess, ethnic heritage and even one’s socioeconomic background can all sway the decision makers’ decisions.

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But, in the end and when stress and doubt threaten to offset knowledge and belief, one will do well to remember that the hay is in the barn. For four years, St. Thomas Aquinas students receive an outstanding education in all ways. The gift for our faculty and staff lies in watching our students apply themselves today, tomorrow and for years to come.  And with that, the application is complete.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Evaluating the Value: Is Catholic Education Worth the Cost?

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It is a familiar question, responses to which are often volleyed back and forth between adults at social gatherings, church functions, and athletic events.  Sometimes what may begin as a friendly conversation can turn into a heated discussion, the general pros and cons of private vs. public education lost in the greater abyss of insinuations, implications and accusations.

But what if people retreated from the private vs. public school debate and gently looked at the grander scope of the question?  Regardless of where one chooses to send one’s child to school, are the merits of a Catholic education still existent? What exactly are the modern day benefits of such a private education?  Certainly, sending one’s child to a Catholic school involves a cost and a sacrifice.  This is not new knowledge.  But the deeper question lingers…  is it worth the cost?

Yes.  A resounding yes.

Like all blogs, this entry adopts a personal tone and its content is based on research and personal first-hand experience. As an individual who journeyed through a Catholic elementary school, Catholic high school, and a Catholic college, I have worn my fair share of polyester and plaid.

But while the sun is setting on this year’s Catholic Schools Week, a quick cost-benefit analysis of Catholic education may be warranted to allay parents’ (or others’) nagging qualms, concerns, doubts- and those uncomfortable, awkward moments at the neighbor’s backyard barbeque.

The overt benefits of Catholic schooling are many.  Everyone recognizes its traditional yet timeless virtues: superior academics, discipline in the classroom, small student to faculty ratios, and overall faith and character development. Catholic school students consistently outperform national norms on standardized tests.  Our educational focus on the whole csw logo 2014child- mind, body and spirit- opens the door to success in both college and in life. In addition to strong academics, challenging extra-curricular activities, fine arts, performance arts, music, sports, and scholarly/cultural clubs and organizations, Catholic schools mold, shape, and form young people into adults of integrity- to the best of their ability, of course.

It is impossible to address all of the benefits of a Catholic education in one blog entry and, well, frankly that would bore both this author and you, the reader.  But there is one reward to Catholic education that is oft mentioned but whose merits are typically overshadowed by scholastic and athletic limelight.

The quiet game changer?   Service.

Community service is an essential component of Catholic school curriculum.  Everyone probably agrees service is nice but… does it really matter?  And if so, how so?   

To the Learner

If humans’ instinctual response to situations could be reduced to a mathematical equation, it would look something like this: Self > Other = Happiness.  But in a Catholic school classroom, hallway, or lunchroom, school children from Kindergarten through 12th grade are taught to think the “Other” way around. Catholic schools take the Christian emphasis on “Love Thy Neighbor” and use it to awaken young people’s awareness of the world around them.YorkPic012

Through a gentle reliance on the Gospel, Catholic schools promote not just discipline but self-discipline, the value of which is immeasurable. Students are challenged to be Christ-like in both word and deed; they are asked to examine their own choices and actions in light of the Gospel’s law of love. The benefits of such training? Kinder, gentler, more reflective human beings.  This is an undeniable benefit not just to the child, but to our greater family we call the world.

To the Educator

Reinforcing that their students are the hands and feet of Christ, Catholic school educators emphasize the value of giving back, of helping, of aiding one another. Teaching young people how to serve increases their own sense of fulfillment. They are, in essence, serving by teaching. After parents, Catholic school teachers can be students’ best role models for living, comporting and exemplifying Jesus’ masterful role as Servant-Teacher.

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To Colleges

Private school tuition can cause even the staunchest supporter to swallow hard. But it helps to keep an eye on the prize.

College admissions committees look very favorably upon applicants who have spent quality time in service-oriented activities. Why?  Because service demonstrates that the “doer” has a desire to influence and improve his community. It equally suggests that s/he has experience working as part of a team, possesses a compassionate heart, and operates with a keen awareness of the world. Colleges seek these qualities in their potential students.

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Service offers its participants something that a classroom cannot- variable skills, new experiences, interpersonal skill development, unique social opportunities, etc.  More than ever, colleges clutch and grasp at candidates who demonstrate knowledge and understanding as only exhibited by one who has received a well-rounded education.  Even Petrarch would assuredly have saluted Catholic education.  Trionfi.

To the Community

Catholic schools were ranked #1 in the percentage of graduates who actively participate in civic and community activities such as voting, volunteering, letter-writing to legislators, donating to charitable causes and embracing issues of social justice. Again, colleges are paying attention and infuse “political education and engagement tactics into a variety of disciplines and courses.”  Increasing students’ political efficacy and sense of civic duty has become not just a lofty ideal but a real goal on college campuses.

A strong “service education” helps young people become more responsible citizens, adults who will one day contribute to a strong economy and a healthier environment. Learning to think critically, act selflessly, and walk through life with Kindness balanced on one shoulder and Fortitude on the other, young adults become more enlightened and informed voters, consumers and parents.

Society at large can (and should) consider this a real win.

To the World

Catholic students routinely serve their world.  They reach out to those who they may one day care for, educate, or employ. They learn to stretch themselves, challenge their comfort zones, transcend their psychological borders. While supported by their Catholic school faculty and staff in service activities, students learn to embrace (and not fear) diversity. serviceWorking in a homeless shelter, a soup kitchen or a day care center on the “rough” side of town cements Catholic students’ understanding of their fortune and awakens their compassion for others.

Service education instills the notion that every individual has the power to make a difference in the world and a responsibility to do so.  What is happening to our children as a result of their Catholic education?  They are thinking of the future, of the next generation, of those who will one day follow them… these are not typical traits characteristic of young people or teenagers. But spending time- real time- with those who are in need or caring for one’s environment shapes young psyches into thinking macro instead of micro.

Years ago, after spending 16 years in a Catholic school environment, I followed my own Catholic school service training and entered the US Peace Corps. Later as a graduate student and then as a law student, I enrolled in programs that revolved around giving back to the world- culturally, legally, academically.  Why? Because Catholic education instilled a five letter concept into my thinking, my being, my living :  s-e-r-v-e .

Catholic education has always been at the heart of the Catholic mission.  Teaching the Catholic faith and values, worshiping as community, and putting our faith into action through service, these are all part of the witness we pass on to students.

Undeniably, at tuition time, the pinch on the pocketbook stings.  Financial aid and scholarship opportunities help. But affix one’s eye on a child’s horizon and the outlook is bright. When it comes to evaluating the lifelong benefits of a Catholic education, the rewards are eternally splendid.

 

Molly M. Wade

Marketing and Public Relations

St. Thomas Aquinas High School

 

 

Distinctly Distinguished: The St. Thomas Aquinas Difference

Laden with value, vision and virtue, St. Thomas Aquinas stands ready to launch the youth of today into a successful tomorrow. How? By continuing to do what it does so very well- being distinctly distinguished in how we educate tomorrow’s leaders.

Long ago, Saint Thomas Aquinas systematized thought and Catholic teaching and called upon strong scholarship methods to advance his intellectual assertions. Today, in Dover, New Hampshire, our administration, faculty and staff continue to do the very same thing with modern tools in modern times for modern youth.  By challenging, supporting and transforming this generation’s young people, St. Thomas Aquinas High School sustains our patron saint’s desired legacy of rich scholarship. Our distinctiveness lies both within our approach and our application.

Aim high- and soar higher. This student-centered philosophy is one that permeates the thinking of each faculty advocate. A community blanketed with warmth and kindness, St. Thomas Aquinas High School challenges every single student to become the best version of him/herself. Students are encouraged to discern and determine what qualities and characteristics make them unique. They are then nudged to create a self-vision, their own strategic plan. Additionally, we root them in service so that they can bloom… in selflessness.

Throughout the year, St. Thomas Aquinas encourages its students to participate in Charity Dress Down Days (CDDDs). The purpose of these special days is twofold. First, it draws distinct recognition to a local charity that serves the needs of our community. Second, it gently sprinkles seeds of philanthropic thinking upon our students’ minds. As they enter young adulthood, St. Thomas Aquinas students develop a very valuable gift- they begin to consider the needs of others as important as their own desires or, as we like to call it, “a heart for service.”Christmas Giving 2014

Partnering with families helps us be a school where education transcends singular intellectual learning. We believe that, perhaps more than ever before, a successful education must include a comprehension, an optimization and an implementation of life skills. In effect, we consider it our charge not just to nourish our students’ minds but to also enrich their entire person.  To do this, we embrace them within a community where communication and boundaries are established and honored. We accept students where they are at in the hopes that we can guide them toward their destined fulfillment.

“After worrying if we were doing the right thing for our oldest child, I can now say that I love Saint Thomas Aquinas High School. Everyone has been fantastic in helping make our son’s transition to high school extremely smooth. The school accommodates all of his needs. If I ever have concerns or issues, I email his guidance counselor and the situation is rectified as soon as possible. Everyone at Saint Thomas Aquinas has been wonderful. We will be sending all three of our children to this great community and we feel blessed to be part of such a wonderful place.“  -Carole Mahoney, Parent

Communicating effectively with teenagers generally requires that one have at least a rudimentary proficiency in a digital language. Media, mobile devices, pop music, the Internet, and digital dialogues are but a few modern ways that adolescent minds become transfixed and potentially exploited.  To stay on top of the game and to navigate through and around various communication conduits, St. Thomas Aquinas continually discovers new and creative ways to reach young people. An adaptive, transformative approach is not just part of our students’ educational path, it is part of our community’s deeper mission.

As a parent, I appreciate the ease and multiple ways in which information is shared with students and parents. Moodle, Edline, and My STA allow my family to stay connected and informed on everything from homework and grades to sporting events and volunteer opportunities. Additionally, STA’s focus on getting to know the students and families shines through in the round-table discussions hosted by Mr. Collins and the New Parent Gatherings scheduled before the school year even begins. –Kim Bryan, Parent

Inside the classroom and without, our students learn that they are never too young to lead. Whether climbing up a mountain, performing an archeological dig in Latin class or cross-pollinating hairy plants in Biology class, our varied educational approaches awaken our students’ desire to reach, to stretch, to cultivate their own growth.

Led by science teacher, Dr. Susan Pike, the brave group embarked upon a nine hour excursion up the side of Mount Jackson. The mountain, named after 19th century New Hampshire state geologist Charles Thomas Jackson, is part of the Presidential Range of the White Mountains. Recognized for its exceedingly rocky terrain and steep inclines, Mount Jackson challenged both students and adult chaperones to call upon their inner resilience and endurance- two virtues in which the St. Thomas Aquinas community excels.   

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Education and training complement one another and St. Thomas Aquinas utilizes both. Education is measured by tenure; training implies action, the success of which can be measured by subsequent performance. When the two are intertwined, students may not realize where one ends and the other begins. The result, however, offers each learner a composite self-sketch where there are no limits.

Offering sophisticated technology classes allows St. Thomas Aquinas students to receive an education that expands far beyond traditional, linear, text-based learning. Independent learning ignites the creative spark in each individual student so that instead of turning pages to discover what is to be learned next, students follow their own interests, heed their own cues and essentially track their own learning curve. In 3D Animation class, Mr. Jim Christie adopts a coach-like manner, which further allows students to be creative, be spontaneous and be themselves. For a teenaged learner, his approach reflects the “ne plus ultra” of classroom instruction. Whether acquiring new graphic design skills, rendering models into images, or improving their problem-solving skills, St. Thomas Aquinas technology students are successfully converting their digital curiosity into visual reality. Literally and figuratively, they are architects of their future- and there is nothing virtual about that.

Safety, health, contentment. These are the true goals of child rearing, as every parent knows.  As the world spins faster and faster and young people’s sphere of focus turns ever toward technology, it becomes more challenging to educate young minds with the proper blend of traditional virtues and innovative digital competency. Never before has the future been so predictably unpredictable.

Julia has always loved school and I am so happy that St. Thomas Aquinas is such a wonderful fit for her.  Her honor classes are challenging her intellectually.  Socially, Julia seems very comfortable and is meeting lots of new friends. Volleyball has been fabulous- the coaches are enthusiastic and Julia is already looking forward to next year!  We are extremely pleased with the Freshman experience. –Rose and Steve Forcillo, Parents

So as modern communication continues to evolve, St. Thomas Aquinas will continue to speak the language of virtue. By awakening the splendor of youthful vigor and clasping the hand of adolescent idealism, our school offers some quality assurance that whatever tomorrow brings, our students stand prepared to accept God’s charge for them.

There is a strategic balance to be sought between celebrating the unique inner colors of each student and gently rotating their self-vision to include service to others. At St. Thomas Aquinas, our community cares as much about fostering academic excellence as we do about nurturing human excellence. OMAA 5

To reflect means to think seriously but also to bend light backwards. With this issue of Reflections, we hope to recast our greatest light on past months so that you, our extended family, can see what we see: our students, our splendor, our “lux in tenebris”.

St. Thomas Aquinas High School is a community defined by the distinguished and the distinct.  In the advent of their lives, our students have a unique fortune and fortitude bestowed upon them singularly by God’s grace. The universality and inclusiveness of our community allows for each young person’s inner light to shine in its natural state thereby fulfilling, not coincidentally, what St. Thomas Aquinas himself most desired. “Hence we must say that for the knowledge of any truth whatsoever man needs divine help, that the intellect may be moved by God to its act. But he does not need a new light added to his natural light, in order to know the truth in all things, but only in some that surpasses his natural knowledge.” (Summa Theologiae, I-II)

St. Thomas Aquinas’ sainthood was vested in his intellectual service of God. May we be so bold as to clutch the same hope for our young STA saints.

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The Greatest Giveaway

Black Friday madness is a distant memory, Ugly Sweaters have been tucked away for next year’s party, and the onslaught of magazines/catalogs in mailboxes has slowed to a reasonable pace. The heralding of sales, discounts and great giveaways has quieted. Alas, the long-awaited time has come- Christmas.

December in the United States brings with it intrinsic mass media marketing- bundle packaging, multiple promotion days, special services, free gifts- all things within which Americans, and especially our youth, can get wrapped up. Loosening the ties of consumerism on our children can be challenging. And yet, remarkably rewarding.

For some St. Thomas Aquinas students, this holiday will bring the receipt of anticipated gifts. For others, it will include embarking on family travels. For those in our student community who practice a different religion, it may offer a time of reflection and rest.

When school resumes after the break, our senior class will move along on their final journey here at St. Thomas Aquinas. Emotions will be mixed but the clay has been cut, set and formed.  

For the true takeaway from a Catholic high school lies not with the diploma or the tassel. It rests in the graduate’s inner splendor that, while attending, has been celebrated for 720 days (four years). Yes, each day each child here is acknowledged, supported and encouraged to shine.

Awaken the Christmas parallel. tree

As gift wrap falls to the floor and traces of tinsel get swept out with the tree, true Christmas joy remains in the Christ child’s inner splendor. His Light alone continues to shine in the darkness long after the hustle and bustle settles into January silence.

As the last teenage footstep leaves the building and the wind whistles behind the final closing door today on December 23, St. Thomas Aquinas High School will stand empty. And yet, ever present and ever lingering, is the palpable presence of youthful Energy, Light and Spirit. Of the kind born in a manger.

And that… is the season’s greatest giveaway.

 

Merry Christmas.

 

 

Advent- Preparing for Greatness

In the very first of our St. Thomas Aquinas blogs, we embrace the season that enfolds us in its warmth and preparation: Advent.

Regarded as a time to turn inward and rest our thoughts on Jesus, Advent gently knocks on the doors of our souls, inviting us to enter into a period of self-reflection. As I sit in my office and listen to the sound of young voices permeating the halls, I am reminded how blessed we are to climb, walk, and run alongside these students of such brilliance and light.

On the axis of “Generation Selfie,” St. Thomas Aquinas High School gently spins. Intent on transforming young people, our Catholic high school envisions a true horizon for each student- one that is glorious in splendor, limitless in possibility, and a divisor in distinction. By teaching, by modeling, by serving, our STA faculty awakens the awe in each pupil and feeds their inner fire throughout his/her season of adolescent wonder. When the wintry years of teenagehood melt away, St. Thomas Aquinas students find themselves fully equipped to spring into the next season of their lives.

With an education braced by kindness, young minds and hearts are micro-nurtured at St. Thomas Aquinas so that they can develop a macro-perspective. Why? Because to fully engage in the world, people must appreciate needs, temper wants, and, as the British oft quip, “mind the gap” between the two. Lined between needs and wants is hard work- the foundation of success.  When people work hard for something, they acquire an appreciation for effort, an understanding of diligence. They learn to practice, to strive, to achieve.

Like three wise men who long ago embarked on an arduous trek across nations, our students are explorers and futurists. They, too, proceed daily on a long journey through hills and valleys and, while doing so, serve as visionaries of their own future.  They learn to prepare, apply information as necessary and expect the unexpected. They think in short term snippets while developing long term strategies. They learn from their predecessors and, most importantly, they dream productively.  Although not royal by lineage, our students deserve much honor as they themselves pay homage to hard work and effort.

In this, our first “Inside Story” and as we round the corner toward a new year, we note the three most virtuous of holidays: Thanksgiving- a time to offer gratitude for one’s blessings; Advent- a time to anticipate great things; Christmas- a time to celebrate magnificence. In that shared spirit of gratitude, anticipation and celebration, we recognize the blessing of our student population. They are the ions that electrify our halls, the protagonists in our story’s plot.  They far surpass the standard Euclidean distance and hit the G10 of all notes. They are learners, leaders, travelers.

Advent is a time of great promise, a demarcation in the calendar year and also in our inner spirit. From whence we came and to where we move is but a fine distinction, one dependent upon select guidance from above.

Technologically, culturally, and environmentally change is everywhere. And yet, in this world of movement, one thing remains constant: God’s promise to His people. Advent reminds us all that the greatest of gifts arrived long ago and the wisest of men were guided to it… by a light in darkness.

May the deepest of joys fill your heart this Advent season and may we jointly celebrate the continual light in darkness that we know as home: St. Thomas Aquinas High School.

~Molly M. Wade, Public Relations

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