Headmaster’s Letter

Dear SJCS Community, Families, and Friends:

At our annual Meet the Teacher Night, I gave a state of the school address that I called “SJCS by the Numbers.” It was a unique approach recommend and largely pulled together by the school’s Chief Financial Officer, Ms. Ann O’Dea, who picked up the idea from another school that did something similar. It seemed like the right approach to me, because I think at times we can forget, and therefore take for granted, just how well our students do year in and year out and all of the opportunities they have upon high school graduation as a result of their efforts during high school.

For example, do you realize that 100% of our students who have applied to college since the school’s founding 24 years ago have been accepted to college? A couple years ago we started surveying our seniors regarding the college application process. Since beginning those surveys:

  • 83% of our seniors have reported that they were accepted to their first choice college
  • 96% saying that they were happy with their college acceptances
  • Over the last three years, 93% of St. Joseph’s 298 graduates were offered college scholarships totaling $33,320,000

If we had the data at our fingertips for the two decades previous to this, I am confident that it would show similar results. The building and facilities might have changed over the years and some teachers have come and gone, but getting our students into the colleges and universities of their choice is what we do year in and year out. And moreover, these same graduates tell us, year in and year out, how well-prepared they were by our teachers for the academic rigors of college.

At Homecoming this year, I was reminded of why we work so hard to do this. While it’s good every once in awhile to see the numbers, it’s always great to see the faces and hear the stories from those who the numbers represent. On this night, the encounter I had with three young men in particular will stay with me. Two of these men graduated from SJCS is 2012 and the other in 2011. Two of them told me about their first “real” jobs. One is working as an engineer at GE and the other for an HR firm downtown. The third is preparing for dental school exams.

None of them had been in the school building much since they graduated, so they asked if I would show them around. They had heard about some changes and wanted to see them. So, I proudly walked them through the school and showed them the renovated chapel that we now call the St. John Paul II Center, the garden adjacent to the senior commons that was beautifully refurbished with pavers, benches, picnic tables and a statue of St. Joseph holding the Child Jesus that was commission by a local artist to honor Mrs. Moon upon her passing. We even made a trip to the third floor of the middle school because they had not yet seen the art, music, and dance rooms and the beautiful view from the highest point in Greenville County.

As these three students admired what they were seeing, I was marveling at the three young men that were standing in front of me. Now in my 17th year as head of school, I have similar experiences to this one all of the time. I run into our graduates often whether at the school, at church, or out and about in the community. Nearly always, I walk away from those conversations marveling at the fine young men and women our graduates have become.

Through these encounters, I am beginning to understand the words that Mrs. Moon used to say to me often in a different way. Mrs. Moon loved to remind me: “Our graduates are destined to change the world.” I used to think that she meant that our graduates would change the world in extraordinary, attention grabbing ways. After talking with hundreds of SJCS graduates over the years (some of whom are doing extraordinary, attention grabbing things), I’m beginning to think that the way they do and will change the world, to borrow the words of the newly canonized St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta, is by “doing small things (read: ordinary things) with great love.” For just as we need to take a look at “the numbers” to remember the extraordinary job the school does preparing students for college, we need to take the time to talk and listen to how our graduates are truly influencing the world for the better.

What was once ordinary — getting an education, getting married, having kids, contributing to society as faith-filled professionals, business men and women, service workers and engaged citizens — is becoming far too uncommon. So, let’s be careful not to take for granted all the “ordinary” things our graduates are already doing to change the world for the better. When I take a moment to step away from the drama that is normal middle and high school life, I am filled with enormous pride and joy in our graduates.

With love and prayers,

Keith F. Kiser, Headmaster