Why St. Joe?
Carolina Vela's speech at Parents' Night
My name is Gabriela Ortiz and I am an 8th grader and second year student at St. Joseph Academy. My feelings of the first day of middle school were probably no different than the average seventh grader. Fear of the unknown. Not knowing what to expect or understanding fully how this would be different than elementary caused a little trepidation on the first day of school. Much to my surprise, it was an easy transition and a year filled with great memories.
Throughout the course of my first year at St. Joseph Academy, certain teachers have played key roles in bringing out my academic and personal strengths and interests. For example, my seventh grade English teacher, Mrs. Mohr helped me transform my approach to writing and ultimately instilled in me a passion for the subject. My Physical Science teacher Mrs. Touchy placed a strong emphasis on teaching in a way that everyone could understand and always made herself available to all students for help when it was needed. All of my teachers have shown their passion for helping students learn by their time that they make themselves available to help when learning new subjects doesn’t come so easy.
Being a student at St. Joseph Academy is about being a part of the Bloodhound community. School never feels like a solo journey here. As a Bloodhound you are always a part of a group or team in some way. Whether it is participation in activities such as sports, pep-rally, liturgy, or community service opportunities you never feel alone. There are countless number of clubs students can participate in such as, the Green Team, Marist Youth and Model UN. I have personally enjoyed participating as a Bloodhound Ambassador last school year and look forward to participating as a new member of the Positive Peer Leadership Team this year.
For some of us, being a student at St. Joseph Academy is also a family tradition. My grandfather was part of the first graduating class at this campus in 1959. He still tells me stories about the good old days at St. Joe. I hope to continue that tradition as well and one day share all of my “good old days” experiences at St. Joe.
My educational experience at St. Joseph Academy has had a drastic influence on not only who I am as a person, but has also done much to shape my goals and aspirations for the future. My futures goals include becoming an orthodontist. I feel that being a student at St. Joseph Academy will not only prepare me for college, but help me excel in achieving this goal. St. Joe teaches us to become better students and Catholics. We are taught to give of ourselves and make time for our faith, family, and community. This is a big part of what makes our school so different and so special.
Reflecting upon the past 5 years, I realize everything St. Joe has offered me.
Rigorous academics that push me to be the best student that I can be and that prepare me for college level courses, as well as various clubs that have opened up many opportunities for me; ranging from Marist conferences in New York, to NJHS, green team, project red, PPLT, model UN, and student council. A Marist education- is basically the mission to make Jesus known and loved. I’m not Catholic, but attending this school has made me appreciate my own religion so much more. The Catholic education offered here is what creates this positive environment.
Teachers that care about their students and will put in countless of extra hours to make sure that our college essays are perfect and that we are completely prepared for our midterms. I’ve emailed teachers the night before a midterm asking them last minute questions and they respond back within 5 min, and… it was one o’clock in the morning.
I’ve had the opportunity to be a part of the swim team and compete as a Bloodhound for my entire high school. We cheer on our fellow bloodhounds at Friday night football games and our school pep rallies, and those are some of my best memories from this school.
Finally, There is a Constant push here at SJA to give back to the community through service. A few examples are Marist Days of Service, Marist Youth- a school club that is dedicated to serving the school and community, I’m even taking a class this year that allows me to leave campus for 2 periods of the day and do community service. This is one of my favorite aspects about St. Joe- because it is like no other school in the Valley. We go beyond the basic college service hour requirements and do everything we can to help out those around us.
Overall, my piece of advice for any students coming to St. Joe is to take full advantage of every aspect of our school. Get involved in all of the clubs and sports we have, take those challenging AP classes, ask all of the questions you have because there will always be someone to answer them, participate in Marist Day of Service, lose your voice screaming at our homecoming football game, and most importantly- enjoy every part of the full middle school and high school experience that SJA offers. Saint Joseph Academy is an amazing community, I’m so fortunate that I chose St. Joe, and I'm sure that you will feel the same way too.
Why SJA over any other option?? Because middle school shouldn't just be a great growth opportunity for YOUR child- but it should be an experience of growth for your child along with their family. Studies have shown that parents' involvement during this critical time of a child's self discovery matters. Their sense of community matters. The building blocks of the whole child you have been nurturing shouldn't end at sixth grade - it only makes sense to continue nurturing them through their most influential time period of adolescence. This is when they need you the most for guidance! You can be as engaged or as disengaged as you choose in the daily life of your child here at SJA. But at least you have a choice. And here you have not just a community for your child to grow in, but a whole family to grow in TOGETHER. THERE IS A DIFFERENCE AND THE DIFFERENCE DOES MATTER.
My name is Salsa Lane, I’m from Indonesia, and I am a senior at Saint Joseph Academy. I moved here during the middle of my junior year from Washington State. Before that, I lived in Suriname, a small country located in South America. My family moves around a lot because of my dad’s job so the whole process is very familiar to me; nonetheless, moving never gets any less scary or easier no matter how many times I do it.
I had no idea what to expect from moving to Brownsville, but the one thing that my parents always made sure to do was put me in a good school. My dad spent weeks searching for schools even before we got here, yet when we arrived, I still had no idea where I would be going. The only source we had that somewhat helped us decide on a school was the internet; but I knew that I wanted to get to know a school for more than what they promoted on their websites before attending it. So, we decided to schedule some appointments for me to visit some schools.
The first school I was scheduled to tour was Saint Joe, and then Veterans. Funny enough, Saint Joe ended up being the only school I toured. I visited Saint Joe without any plan of attending. My family is not Catholic, so my mom did not want me to attend a religious-affiliated school. When I arrived for my tour, I was immediately greeted into the beautiful campus with smiles and welcoming words. It was the first campus tour I went to where I didn't feel overwhelmed. I got to meet some staff and students who were all so kind. Most campus tours I go to have always made me feel like their intent was only to enroll me into their school, but at Saint Joe it felt as if the people here cared about more than increasing their student population. They genuinely care about your well-being and making you feel included in the Bloodhound family; and of course, your faith.
Even though I’m not Christian, being surrounded by people with different beliefs than mine has only made me a more open-minded person. Here we are all equal no matter our faith or what country we come from, and our differences never limits us from any opportunities. Now I’m not saying that Saint Joe is perfect, because having attended three different high schools, I’ve come to realize that no school truly is. It’s the people here, the classes, and the fun traditions that somehow manage to get me out of bed in the morning and make my days here special. This school has given me so many opportunities that encourage me to be a better student every day, both academically and personally. Teachers care about how far you go in life and your ability to be the best version of yourself, just as much as they care about your grades.
My transition to living in Brownsville was nowhere near perfect, but I am so grateful to be able to attend a school that has welcomed me into a community that I am proud to be a part of.
They say that high school comes and goes in the blink of an eye, but I think that it is partially true since my eyes always seemed to be open as I studied late at night. I always knew that six years would be enough and that I would be ready and prepared to leave by the end of senior year. While this remains true, I never thought how much I would miss everything that is Saint Joe.
These last few weeks leading up to graduation have been a time of reflection. As I discussed with my friends and classmates, we all seemed to agree that we will miss those afterschool talks on the benches, underneath the shade of the trees in the courtyard. We’ll miss screaming and cheering at football and basketball games, and showing our Bloodhound pride at pep rallies. We’ll miss waiting to hear the sound of the bell, marking the end of the period, as we all rushed to the hallways and courtyard to catch up with friends before the next bell rang. As we talked in between classes, we would often lose track of time, until we heard the all too familiar sound of Mr. Sandoval’s whistle, followed by his voice, telling us to get to class. And of course, we’ll miss getting a late slip from Ms. De Luna.
Saint Joe has long represented a place of learning and growth. Many of us come from families with a rich tradition and legacy here at this school; some of us, however, are the beginning of what is sure to be a long legacy of Bloodhounds. Living here in the neighborhood of Rio Viejo, I remember growing up and hearing the loud cheering and the voice of the announcers coming from the football games on Friday evenings. I remember seeing my brother wake up every morning, putting on his khaki pants and button-up shirt, and walking across the street to school. I always longed to walk in his footsteps, and I eventually did in 2011, literally, as I also began walking to school every day for six years, waving hello to Mr. Raul Treviño every morning as he directed traffic.
Saint Joseph Academy has taught us many lessons. It is amazing to look back and remember how we were when we first entered this school. So many events have taken place in our lives, both inside and outside of school that have allowed us to mature. Every retreat, every class discussion, and every assignment tested our grit. Among one of the greatest lessons that I have learned is that taking risks and exploring the world outside of our physical, mental, and emotional comfort zones allows us to grow spiritually and find new ways to serve God and our community. As we approach life ahead, let us keep close in our heart this important concept, as we dare to dream boldly and take action to improve our lives and community.
Each year the Call to Ministry class chooses a theme for the school year. This theme becomes the underlying concept and idea behind every school liturgy, retreat, and overall school life. This year, the Call to Ministry class chose the theme “Seasons of Love.” This theme addresses the important question of how one measures a year. Saint Joe, however, has challenged me to take that question a step further and ask myself how I should measure my lifetime. The CTM class challenged the school community to measure their year, and lifetime for that matter, in the way that a servant leader should. By taking on the role of a Marist leader, we must measure our lifetime not in daylights or sunsets, as the song goes, but rather in how we serve others with love. By challenging ourselves to measure each year of our lives this way, we give ourselves a purpose in this world. Ms. Martin introduced this quote from Mother Teresa to me a while back, and it says, “The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.” This rings true, and is a lesson we should take for the rest of our lives.
So many people have played important roles in our lives, helping us to achieve this moment as we graduate from high school and prepare to take on college life. On behalf of the Class of 2017, I thank all of our teachers, past and present. Thank you for your dedication and commitment and for always pushing us to present our best work and give our best effort. Thank you to our counselors, who guided us through the daunting college application process and helped us secure a place to go next school year. Thank you to the administration and staff, for working behind the scenes and ensuring that we have a welcoming and engaging learning environment. I would personally like to thank my family. Thank you to my grandmother and aunt for always being a source of support and sage advice. Thank you to my brother for being an example of strength and determination, and for always being at my side to celebrate my successes and to comfort me in my disappointments. I would also like to thank my dad; although he is not physically present tonight, he is and will always be my moral compass and a source of inspiration and strength. Finally I would like to thank my mother. It is through your unwavering and unconditional love and strength that I am standing here tonight.
One of the things I enjoyed the most during my senior year is that Mr. Lerma’s class, aside from learning about derivatives and other math concepts, almost always included talks about life, politics, and finance. One of the lessons that I learned from him was that with the right attitude, determination, and a mind open to new ideas yet rooted in God, a new world opens itself to us.
Class of 2017, take everything that we have learned here at Saint Joe and from our parents and use it in the future. The world is ours to take. No matter in what corner of the country or world that we may be in, let us always remember where we come from. As Michael Josephson said, “Take pride in how far you’ve come. Have faith in how far you can go. But don’t forget to enjoy the journey.”
My most memorable experience at St. Joe while I was a student revolved around the incredible friendships I built during those years that are still strong today. It is those friends that have been with me through some tough as well as great times in my life. What a memorable gift.
My favorite academic experience(s) at St. Joe centered around the life lessons that Coach Garza so graciously bestowed upon us, the bellowing of Mr. Rosas to “find the home row” in typing class, the Longhorn/Celtic fanatic History teacher we found in Coach Hickson, and the infectious smile and patience showered upon us in AP Physics when we didn’t understand by Brother Paul.
The thing that makes St. Joe different from other schools is the sense of family and camaraderie infused in the environment surrounded by the comfort and emphasis found in its religious component. You are not going to find that in other schools in the area.
I chose St. Joe for my kids due to all the reasons mentioned above and more. Besides that they are part of a legacy in our family that attended St. Joe. From my uncle, to all my siblings, to their mom and her siblings…. St. Joe has been a big part of our lives and a firm foundation from which to step off from when looking to go out into the world and do something amazing.
"Coming to college and being away from the border allowed me to become more aware of my surroundings and the circumstances that shaped my identity. Classes such as Social Justice at Saint Joseph Academy, and International Relations of Latin America at Boston University have impacted the way I see the world. Nevertheless, it is the community at Saint Joseph Academy which helped me discover and develop my gifts and talents and use them to serve others and make a difference.The relationship I fostered with my teachers, the experiences I underwent with my classmates outside of class through Marist Youth, and most importantly, the Christian foundations that were implemented in me are what I am most thankful for, as they have made me into the woman who I am today."
Read Barbara's article in the Boston University's The Collegian:
After being at St. Joseph Academy for six years, it's hard to choose just one memorable experience. I would have to say that being provided with so many opportunities to serve my community impacted me the most.
At St. Joe I learned to be a servant leader, and how to serve quietly. I cannot stress the gratitude I have for my teachers and moderators who trusted me and encouraged me to participate in various events and organizations within and outside my school community. Thanks to Mr. Cantu, I had the honor to serve at mass, and I was a leader at Encounter and retreats. The missions trip of my junior summer year was life-changing. I was able to serve as a Marist leader with Mrs. Solis and Mrs. Bradford, and I learned how our Marist family is connected all over the world.
Every teacher at St. Joe shaped my academic experience in one way or another. They taught me valuable lessons that I will cherish forever. All my teachers have always been proud, supportive, and encouraging -and I thank St. Joe for that. It is because of them that I continue to persevere to do well in school now that I am in college. Keeping in touch with them and letting them know what I am up to is something I enjoy doing. The feedback I get from them is meaningful to me because it shows me they truly care.
What makes St. Joe so different is that it is a family that is connected to you one way or another. It’s a school that allows students to grow both academically and spiritually. St Joe focuses on the individual, prepares us for the real world, and shapes us into future compassionate leaders. The tradition lives on and St. Joe continues to be a home for me and all bloodhounds from every generation.
I have many great memories of St. Joe, but what I treasure most are the life-long friendships that I have been blessed with. Once you are part of St. Joe, you are part of it for life. I chose St. Joe for my 3 kids because it provides the best overall education. It educates the mind, challenges the body, and forms the heart to be the best it can be. It educates the WHOLE person. Sofia Bernus '15, Ana Paola Bernus '19, Antonio Bernus '21
There are many memorable experiences I still carry from my time at St. Joe, and one of these experiences was the Fall Day of Service that I helped organize as part of Marist Youth. What started off as an unrealistic idea became an achievable reality with the help of students and faculty members who teamed up to help a number of communities across Brownsville.
For those who had the privilege of sitting in one of Mr. Hickson's classes, it is difficult to put in words the tremendous impact that his lectures could have on his students. It was a privilege to have him as a teacher three different times, and his Modern American History class continues to be one of the most memorable courses I have taken to this day. The book we read for that class, Howard Zinn's "A People's History of the United States," continues to be my favorite book of all time.
The sense of community is present as soon as you step foot on campus, and it's contagious the more you take advantage of what the school has to offer. Throughout my time at St. Joe, I saw just how much former students came back and contributed in different ways to ensure that the school continued to serve future students. This strong sense of community makes St. Joe quickly seem like not just a school, but rather a home for all those who study there.
What I remember most fondly of my time at Saint Joe are the various opportunities I had to participate within my school community. Whether it was organizing masses and school retreats for CTM (Call To Ministry), preparing cultural festivals for the Spanish Honor Society or performing at school pep-rallies with the Sweethearts Dance Team, I always felt involved in my school and loved making memories with friends, teachers and classmates. Of the various courses and teachers I could speak of, the one most unique to my Saint Joe experience was Social Justice, taken during my junior year. Having the opportunity to learn about human rights, global citizenship, the Catholic Church's position as a social advocate, and the church's call for all humans to be social advocates truly expanded my understanding of the importance of universal human equality and dignity. Because of this class, I gained a new lens to analyze the world I live in, am more aware of our country's and world's social climate, and always strive to live my life as supporter of human rights. The student-teacher relationships made at Saint Joseph Academy set the school apart from the rest. The teachers strive to create a healthy environment for individualized learning opportunities that shape students for future endeavors, whether it be inside the classroom or outside in the greater community. I always felt they had my best interests at heart, challenged me to think critically, and taught me to always strive for more. I consider my former teachers to be some of the most influential people of my upbringing and I am very grateful to have studied under them during my time at Saint Joe.