October was an incredible month at the Academy! So much happened that is worth celebrating that I thought for this month I would just give a brief update in each of our four “Keys to Success” as a school.

Faith

Early this month, we took a delegation of students and staff from St. James to the Archdiocesan Convocation. It was a powerful experience. Three administrators (including me), four faculty and staff, and fourteen students spent most of October 3rd through 5th at the Overland Park Convention Center with about 1,500 other people from every parish and ministry in the Archdiocese. The purpose of the event was to be a catalyst for evangelization across our area to help spread the good news of Jesus to every corner of Northeastern Kansas.
While it was a personally edifying experience, the best part was having our kids there. These sophomores and juniors came away from the convocation on fire for what their role could be in helping lead others to Jesus, which was enough to make the time spent there worth it. Adults from their small group “campfires” kept coming up to me and our other adults talking about their amazement at our students. The comfort and passion they saw in our kids as they talked about their faith was inspiring to them, many of whom grew up in times and places where the expectation was that faith be kept private and quiet. The zeal and joy of those students had an impact on others before they even left the convention center! I can’t wait to see what the Lord does through them at SJA and beyond moving forward.

Scholarship

In academics, we got to celebrate six seniors recognized by the National Merit program, including three who are National Merit Semifinalists! We are excited to see if Bridget Schippers, Ty Murray, and Patrick Brazil advance to finalist status in February.
We also got our official ACT report on the class of 2019, and their average composite score of 25.2 is the second-highest in school history (just behind the class of 2017’s 25.3). It’s an incredible achievement for a wonderful group of kids.
Additionally, our Career Explorations classes continue to grow and develop. Our new “Weekly Storm” newscast is the product of our Journalism/Mass Media Career Explorations Class, and we are excited that the vision for these courses is being realized as in only the second year of the program 26 students have already enrolled in two or more of these courses. We love that our kids are getting an opportunity to get hands-on, real-world experience in MULTIPLE fields before graduation to help them discern where God might be calling them next.

Culture

Our students continue to have success in so many areas. October saw an individual State Championship in golf for Allison Comer (with a second-place team finish) as well as a team state title for our girl’s cross-country team (with a second-place individual finish for Katie Moore)! The boy’s cross country runners placed fourth in state, their highest-ever finish, and our volleyball girls continued to add to their incredible legacy, finishing second in state to make it 13 straight years of either a first- or second-place finish. Girl’s tennis finished fourth in the state, and the dynamic duo of Molly Book and Maddie Biondo were the state runners-up, the highest 5A finish for a doubles team in SJA history. Our boy’s soccer team lost to perennial powerhouse Blue Valley Southwest in their regional final to cap off another strong season. Last but certainly not least, many got to witness an incredible Band and Choir concert at Mid-America Nazarene on Tuesday of Homecoming Week as those programs continue to shine and grow.
More is yet to come as our football boys take on our sister school St. Thomas Aquinas in the second round of the 5A state football playoffs following a first-round win against Leavenworth, and our performing arts department is gearing up for their flagship musical performance of Hello Dolly in just a few short weeks. One of the best parts of my job is getting to see such a variety of talents in action on a regular basis.

Community

As I said in my August Rapp Up, this group of seniors has wholeheartedly embraced their leadership of this building and helped generate a beautifully enthusiastic start to our year. Homecoming Week included another electric night of Hallway Decorating on Wednesday, a great celebration of our Homecoming Court and alumni all day Friday, and a successful dance Saturday night. It was a wonderful week of fun festivities for our whole community.

We talk all the time about educating the whole child, and the hard part is that the most important and exciting achievements that happen here are often unquantifiable, sometimes even unexplainable. Those “accomplishments” could be a small turning of the heart toward the Lord, a step forward in responsibility and maturity, a newly-forged friendship, an unexpected burden carried gracefully. These are the moments that matter most. So while we celebrate that which we can see, which we can name and quantify, the beauty of our community is in those daily movements of the Spirit that unite and shape us. What a gift to work here every day!

Your brother in Christ,

Shane