Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Aaron graduated from JPII on Sunday, the third of my children to have graduated from the school at which I am principal. As it is for most parents, it’s bittersweet for my wife and me: We are bursting with pride for our son, but we also know our relationship has forever changed and that he’s leaving soon.
Aaron will enroll at Notre Dame this August. He’ll leave behind a lot of the laughter which has animated our family since he was two years old and learned he could make his older brother and sister laugh by performing silly stunts and saying funny things. That wit is perhaps his best trait and has served him well in making new friends at JPII.
The transition wasn’t easy. He was most unhappy when I told him after his sophomore year that we were moving up to Nashville so I could be headmaster. He had lived his entire life in Montgomery and was quite comfortable with the friends he had known, many since kindergarten. “I’d rather digest pine cones” was his opening line to the “Why do you want to come to JPII?” essay required of all incoming students, until his mother made him march upstairs and rewrite the whole thing. “They’re probably going to accept him anyway,” I had told her. “I know, but I want him to go there with the right attitude,” she had said back. He came down the stairs thirty minutes later, sulky. “The reason I want to go to JPII, “ he wrote with obvious sarcasm, “is that it’s the best school in the country. With a degree from JPII, I can go anywhere and do anything.” His mother looked at me, undecided. “He’s probably going to be accepted, “ I reiterated. We decided to let it go.
Fast forward two years. What a blessing JPII has been for our son! He’s always been good at music, having received his first drum set at the age of ten. He can play the guitar and piano as well. At JPII he’s found kids who are equally talented and passionate and spent many hours in our basement recording music with them. Though a back injury has slowed down his high school athletic career, he was able to play football his entire senior year and was named team captain by his peers. He used his experience in Mock Trial and Youth in Government in Alabama to help promote the program at JPII and even became the youth governor for Tennessee this year. He connected with literature while taking A.P. English from Mr. Stephenson and was able to expand his gifts in writing and interpretation without feeling awkward or effeminate. Betty Mayberry so challenged my son in A.P. Calculus that he arrived to school obscenely early for tutorials twice/week, just to make it through, and is a better student and person for it. He sang in Mrs. Ebelhar’s choir and played in Mr. Suska’s jazz ensemble. He even was able to take a year of Latin! As part of his Christian Service, he worked in a nursing home with Alzheimer’s patients.
This extraordinary, well rounded experience, I believe, was instrumental in helping Aaron get into Notre Dame. As a “double domer” from ND myself, with two older children already there, I’m both excited for him and deeply grateful to his coaches, teachers and classmates.
Thank you, JPII.