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Saint Joseph Regional High School

Makes the Grade in Giving Back

Anne Frank said, "How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world."

The administration, staff, and students of Saint Joseph Regional High School are certainly not waiting "a single moment" to prepare young men for a life of service and leadership through the foundation of community service.

Over 460 young men from 130 towns create a diverse geographical and socio-economic footprint. "Not all students are Catholic, so we emphasize that we can worship in liturgy and at mass as well as through service," says Michael Bruno, principal.

The school's three pillars of character speak for themselves: "Think, Lead, Serve," and the student body learns firsthand that serving others is as beneficial to the giver as it is to the recipient. Giving back is infused into every aspect of student life, and all students fulfill a requirement to volunteer ten hours of service.

"That's just the beginning," says Michael. "We have many students who go far in excess of the minimum." An alumnus himself, he has been the principal for eight years, having graduated in 2005. "Forty percent of our faculty and coaching staff are alumni," he says. "It's truly a blessing to have the ability to have an impact on students in a place that has had so much impact on own life."

"We don't want to inundate our students with a heavy commitment," says Jeannie Podest, Campus Minister. "Our goal is to introduce them to a variety of different opportunities. Many have no idea that they can make a difference."

Students are encouraged to contemplate why their acts were meaningful, who they helped, and the impact of their involvement. "It's not just checking a box--we want to foster that mindset to Think, Lead, and Serve," states Michael.

Once a month the school organizes "Sandwich Club," a sandwich-building assembly line that benefits a Park Ridge food bank. "We had 52 boys join us to make sandwiches," says Jeannie. "We always make it a point to talk with them about what they were doing and why. They need to see that even here in Bergen County, there is a profound need—people lose their jobs, single moms need assistance, and so on. It really seemed to have an effect on them."

Leadership and service are essential throughout other aspects of student life, too. Athletic coaches and directors get their teams involved in campus clean-ups and initiatives, including a breast cancer "pink out" in which students created pink t-shirts and sold them at games, with all proceeds donated to breast cancer awareness groups.

The music department shares its talents by visiting various senior living and daycare facilities during the holidays for Christmas caroling. Students enjoy delivering beautiful music with a healthy helping of holiday spirit to delight these different populations.

"Giving shows how much we care as a community," says sophomore Christoper Pinto-Spiegel. "It feels especially good when we visibly represent St. Joe's by wearing our St. Joe's gear. St. Joe's students focus on giving back, and that's impactful. We are willing to give without any personal benefit, and this morality becomes a standard. It's a unique and rewarding experience."

Today's students have the privilege of witnessing the legacy of their predecessors at the school. A recent gift from the class of 1969 funded the enhancement of the school's student center, providing a comfortable lounge for after-school socializing. The center is now a safe, fun place for students to gather and unwind with television screens, ping pong, and video games.

Hillary Barnett, communications manager, acknowledges that community service and giving back has always been a part of student life. "We continually have opportunities for service, including dress-down fundraising days, food drives, and gift drives. Giving is who we are."

Principal Bruno sums it up: "We are all on the same team. It's really a special place."

  •  President Bob Fazio and Principal Michael Bruno '05
  • Green Knights helping load canned goods.
  • Green Knights donating their time to support a food drive.

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