Category Archives: Men Who Matter

What does it mean when we say ‘Mount Man?’

Mount St. Joseph students enjoy the camaraderie of attending a game at Plevyak Field. Photo credit: Mount St. Joseph High School

A lot of pride comes with being a “Mount Man.” While wearing my uniform, I have heard adults tell children I deserve acknowledgment because I am a Mount Man. But what does that mean? Why does being a “Mount Man” deserve so much respect?

Senior Braylon Sims

“Being a Mount Man is really about doing everything you can for the Mount St. Joseph community,” Braylon Sims said. Sims, a senior at MSJ, is a part of the track team and is a former Fresh/Soph Basketball player. “Just being present in the community and really giving back to what it’s giving you.”

At the same time, Sims said that people at the Mount live by the ‘classmates for four years, brothers for life’ motto that is so commonly used at the Mount. “And that’s really giving back to what people have created here before and what you’re going to leave behind after you graduate.”

Mr. Michael Stromberg

MSJ teacher and alum, Mr. Stromberg, shares a similar view to Sims. Being a Mount Man is “realizing that you are part of such a larger thing than yourself and thinking about all the guys who have graduated here in the past, all the guys that are going to graduate with you, and all those that are going to graduate after you,” Mr. Stromberg said.

Both Sims and Mr. Stromberg indicate that the true meaning of being a Mount Man is taking in what alumni have left behind at the Mount and leaving something behind for future Gaels to take in. But what about the MSJ students who don’t participate much at the Mount? Is everyone who goes to the Mount a ‘Mount Man,’ or is it exclusive to those who leave their names behind on banners and boards?

“The thing is, you take part in this community even when you don’t realize it,” Sims said. He says that just by going to MSJ, you participate in this community and that everyone that goes to the Mount is a Mount Man.

“I think you have to buy into the experience at St. Joe. But I do. I think if you are walking across that stage as a graduate, I think you are a Mount Man,” Mr. Stromberg said. He says it isn’t about being the ‘perfect person’ or being dedicated to the Xaverian values, but about striving to be the best, we can be.

Classmates gather for a reunion here at The Mount. Photo Credit: Mount St. Joseph High School

However, this still doesn’t answer why Mount Men draw so much respect. “We get to take our experience at St. Joe out into society and hopefully instill that little bit that we were able to receive here as a gift,” Mr. Stromberg said. Mr. Stromberg suggests that we deserve respect because we are contributing to the world through our experiences at St. Joe.

A Mount Man takes part in the MSJ community, strives to be the best person they can be, and takes their experience at MSJ into society. It’s not about being involved in the most clubs and activities at the Mount. It’s not about just knowing the Xaverian Values. It’s about taking all the lessons, striving to follow them, and sending them out into the world.

Jimmy Thomas is a senior member of the Multimedia Journalism class.

While some things change at Mount St. Joseph, others stay the same

Mount Saint Joseph has undoubtedly changed over the years, but change is inevitable. After 145 years, Mount Saint Joseph has gone through many changes along its path, but has continued to stand strong all these years later. Some significant recent events that have changed Mount Saint Joe could be the rise of technology, and the current pandemic that changed learning forever. Mount Saint Joe was built on the Xavierian values, and even with all of the changes that have occurred in the 145 years of Mount Saint Joe’s existence, the values and overall message of the school haven’t changed.

A picture of Mount St. Joseph’s campus today

I Interviewed the longest tendered Mount Saint Joseph community member, Mr. Jerry Naylor, who has been a staple at the Mount for 41 years. After finishing college with a political science and geography major, Mr. Naylor decided to get a license in real estate but decided to start taking night classes for a degree in accounting. In the 41+ years that Mr. Naylor has been at Mount Saint Joseph, he believes the most significant change with Mount Saint Joe was moving away from an open campus model. The open campus model allowed students to have a lot more free time during the school day.

As of now, the schedules are broken into specific requirements; for example, freshmen are supposed to take seven or more classes during their first year, while seniors get a lot more freedom in how many, and which classes they take. Another massive change for the Mount has been the evolving campus over the years. Not surprisingly, the school has gone under massive renovations to the buildings and the addition of facilities, such as the Smith Center. With the iPad being implemented in the classroom seven years ago, teachers have had to adapt to using the technology each day in their classes. The iPads have been great additions for students and teachers, but they have caused some problems as well. Mr. Naylor believes that “iPads should be used for researching information,  sharing, and projecting information to the students.” Mr. Naylor states that “technology has created a challenge to interact with the students on a more personal level.” Virtual learning was one of the most challenging things teachers and students have had to overcome. It was a fundamental change of environment, in which teachers and students were forced to teach and learn virtually. 

I also interviewed Mr. Jody Harris, the 2nd longest-tenured faculty member at Mount Saint, as he has been at Mount Saint Joe for 37 years. Mr. Harris, a political science major, left school and got a job selling electric security for Wells Fargo, but didn’t enjoy it. He was hired in 1985 without really having any teaching experience, and he has been a teacher at Mount Saint Joe ever since. “Teaching felt pretty natural to me, so I stuck with it,” said Mr. Harris. Through the years Mr. Harris has been at Mount Saint Joseph, he has seen the changes that have occurred to the school. He says that the essence of the school hasn’t changed, as we still follow the message and the mold of the brothers, but he says that the renovations to the campus are the most significant.

The iPad has created a challenge, but they have allowed the school to take advantage of the digital link between teachers and students. Mr. Harris believes that iPads can be a problem because they are significant distractions and are constantly misused from their original purpose. Covid also forced schools to begin an entirely virtual learning model, which has not ever been done before. Covid moved teachers out of their comfort zone and challenged them to use things they would have never used before. “Covid has also changed teachers’ expectations, and understanding of the challenges that the students were facing,” Mr. Harris added.

The newest building on the St. Joe campus, the Smith Center.

Mount Saint Joseph has changed in so many ways since it was first established in 1876. The most significant change that has occurred to the Mount during the times of Mr. Naylor and Mr. Harris are the dramatic changes to the campus. The entire renovation of the school and the addition of athletic facilities have changed the school considerably, and encouraged more students to attend each year. Teachers have also made significant changes to some of the challenges that came their way, such as how teachers and students have adapted to the technological advances that have happened in education. With all of these changes that have occurred during the 145 years of the school’s existence, the overall message of Mount Saint Joe hasn’t changed, and with so many teachers that hold on to their memory of their times as students, hopefully, that won’t change any time soon.

Joshua Sheppard is a junior member of the Multimedia Journalism class

Mr. Alfieri’s advice to aspiring musicians: “If there’s an opportunity, go for it.”

Mr. Michael Alfieri, the Mount’s new band and music teacher. (Photo Credit: Ben McElroy)

Michael Alfieri, the new band and music teacher at Mount Saint Joseph High School, is partway through his first year at the Mount. He has been teaching for many years prior to joining the school’s faculty, and has a passion for music practically unrivaled by most teachers here. He has infused the band with his talent and expertise, turning it into a talented and committed group that sounds amazing.

The MSJ band performing during the annual school-wide pep rally. Photograph from the MSJ Quill

While Mr. Alfieri has a long history of teaching music, a lot of it took place in a much larger city, with many more students to teach: New York City. “I actually taught in New York before this. I taught in a school in Brooklyn, and at another in Long Island. And I was also teaching private lessons this whole time, so I was working in music stores, working with kids independently,” says Alfieri when asked about his previous work history. He said he really enjoyed this job, and he would not have left New York if his girlfriend had not gotten a job at John’s Hopkins University. She was assigned John’s Hopkins on the program’s match day, when every medical student is given an envelope designating them to a certain school or institution.

Mr. Alfieri has enjoyed his time at the Mount thus far, especially the devotion of the students to their craft. Photo Credit: Ben McElroy

Michael Alfieri has settled into this job quite nicely, and is having a great time so far. “I have never met such an invested group of students, and I love working with a group that wants to work with me and helps me as much as I help them,” reflects Alfieri. “They really push themselves to improve and don’t just do the minimum to scrape by,  like I have experienced in the past.” He also said he enjoyed working alongside the faculty and staff here at the Mount, saying that they are “so helpful and willing to teach me all there is to know about this school.” It is clear that Mount Saint Joseph is very supportive of their new teachers, and this is something that Mr. Alfieri enjoys about the school.

Mr. Alfieri playing with the band “Freaks No Geeks”.
Credit from

Mr. Alfieri also recommended some things for people pursuing a career in music. He emphasized that the musicianship must be top-notch, and you must be willing to try new experiences. “Say yes to a lot of different things, if there’s an opportunity go for it,” he said, “it may not be exactly what you want to do, it may not be your dream job, but it gives you the experience.” This is something that can apply in many other fields as well, and it is something that Mr. Alfieri has used to his advantage throughout his career. He specified that he learned instruments that he wasn’t necessarily a master at, but knowing how to play them has ended up helping him later on in life.

Michael Alfieri playing his signature instrument, drums. Photo by Jazz Photography

Mr. Michael Alfieri is an extremely talented musician, and has already impacted the students in his classes, with one of his students in his guitar class saying, “I have Mr. Alfieri as a teacher, and I really enjoy learning from him…He makes music fun, and keeps me entertained and excited to learn more.” It is clear to see Mr. Alfieri is doing something right to get his students excited about their music classes. His passion and skill have definitely inspired people to learn more about music at the Mount, and hopefully, his work continues to positively impact the school, and the students he works with.


Ben McElroy is a junior and a member of the Multimedia Journalism class.

A graduate of Loyola-Blakefield, Mr. Shawn Turner’s path leads him to The Mount

During the interview process, Mr. Turner became convinced of the positives of Mount Saint Joseph High School. Photo Credit: Christian Avara

Mr. Shawn Turner, one of the newer teachers here at the Mount has a lot to offer, for not only the students and the faculty, but the mathematics department as well. I was given the chance to speak with Mr. Turner to learn more about him as a teacher, and as a person, and to come away with a better understanding as to why he came to teach at Mount Saint Joseph High School.

Mr. Turner told me first, the reason he came here to Mount Saint Joseph High School, was due to his interview with Mount Saint Joseph Principal Mr. David Norton. “Circumstances played out that I really wanted to be a part of this community after my interview with Mr. Norton.” Mr. Norton told him that Mount Saint Joseph will stand by justice and will condemn any kind of injustice or unwelcoming behavior in the school. Mr. Turner said that a lot of the schools that he applied to did not really have this type of statement. “A lot of the schools where I applied did not have that solid of an admission.” Mr. Turner said that he knew that Mount Saint Joseph, because of this policy, was not just a normal high school.  Mr. Turner said that Mr. Norton believed we are doing good things for the world and that we have men that really do matter. “When Mr. Norton said that I knew that Mount Saint Joe was not just a normal high school, we were trying to do some things that were for the good of the world so that we have men that actually matter.”

Mr. Turner works at the board with one of his math classes. Photo Credit: Christian Avara

In my interview with Mr. Turner, I also found out more insight into what really led him to want to start teaching in the first place. Mr.Turner started out by saying that when he was young he would like to teach his younger siblings in his room. Mr. Turner got a chalkboard from his mom, and he and his siblings would pretend that they were in class and Mr. Turner was the teacher. Mr. Turner’s grandmother when he was in first grade would make him check her spelling, “we had spelling tests and my grandmother instead of making me spell words would tell me to check her spelling of words, to see if it was correct or incorrect. So I got a very early start in checking papers.” Mr. Turner also got to check his aunt’s papers and would teach when she was not teaching. Soon Mr. Turner realized that he liked what he was doing and enjoyed the prospect of teaching.

“I am paving the way for my younger brother, I am paving my way as an African American teacher for other African American male teachers, for you all, and for you all and the way that I teach, and I am paving the way for your understanding of Mathematics. I have to be a model for that kind of thing.” – Mr. Shawn Turner

Mr. Turner said that in college he did not pursue teaching, but he did pursue mathematics. He also said that he did a lot of internships in college, teaching at middle schools and elementary schools. Despite what many students assume, Mr. Turner did not attend Mount Saint Joe, instead attending Loyola-Blakefield for high school, but he did say a lot of the values of the Jesuits are similar to the Xavier Brothers. He said that he likes how at Mount Saint Joseph those values seem to merge, “we say ‘Men Who Matter’ here, guys in Jesuits schools say ‘Men who form with others’.”

Mr. Turner also told me a little about his personal life. He told me that here at Mount Saint Joseph one of our fundamental statements is to be the man who God intends you to be. Mr.Turner said that in his world that “we stand on the shoulders of giants” and “to whom much is given much is required.” Mr. Turner said that he loves that in his family,  everyone seems to support one another. “When things really [go badly], we are always a phone call away, a block away, or a car ride away.” Mr. Turner also said that he has realized that the things that he does in his life will have an impact on future generations. “I am paving the way for my younger brother, I am paving my way as an African American teacher for other African American male teachers, for you all, and for you all and the way that I teach, and I am paving the way for your understanding of Mathematics. I have to be a model for that kind of thing.” Mr. Turner also said “I am always giving to people what I expect to be given to me.”

Picture taken by Senior Christian Avara

Towards the end of the interview Mr. Turner said that he considers himself to be a very consistent person and that he cares a lot about what he does. “I’m real, I love hard, I fight hard, I care hard and a lot of that has shifted from my upbringing as a “Baltimorean.” Mr. Turner talked about how he has had to deal with injustices in his life and how that has led him to be where he is now, adding, “I am standing on the shoulders of giants so those who gave to me, I am paving the way for the next generation you, the guys younger than you, that I am going to become a giant to whose shoulders others can stand.”

I am very grateful that I got the opportunity to interview Mr. Shawn Turner to learn more about him and I think the school is blessed to have Mr. Turner as a teacher here at Mount Saint Joseph High School. His life path has made him the teacher that he is, and he is hoping to share that journey with his students as they move beyond the walls of St. Joe.

27014646-FE85-44EE-92D4-B74FACD2E6C8Christian Avara is a senior and a member of the Multimedia Journalism class.






Mr. Bienek’s contributions go far beyond the classroom

One of Mr. Bryan Bienek’s most important contributions to the St. Joe community has been the Youth Vision Fast, which he leads, along with Mr. Mike O’Donnell. Seniors have the opportunity to take part in it for their Senior Project, although some students end up going on a longer Vision Fast even after graduating. (Photo Credit: Sourcing The Fire,

Mr. Bryan Bienek has been an art teacher at Mount Saint Joseph High School for fourteen years and Chair of the Art Department for ten years. Over this time, he’s had a significant effect on the department itself and the students that take his classes. In our interview, he said, “I added a class, the photo class… and eventually, we added another teacher, a third full-time teacher, which I don’t think (the art department) has had before.”

Mr. Bryan Bienek from

Something else Mr. Bienek has brought to the students of MSJ is the opportunity for a Vision Fast, which is an experience that allows students to discover things about themselves and about life itself, by thinking from a new perspective achieved by fasting. “I went out to Colorado and did a fast for myself, and I didn’t think it was gonna be that powerful of an experience for me, but it was, and I was able to learn how it was done, in a group like that, to come back and lead it for the seniors.

Getting more personal with the interview, I started asking him about his art, and his personality, as well as life outside of school. “My art is a reflection of what’s going on with me… I use it as a sort of meditation, and it has a prayerful aspect.” As far as personal life, outside of the school, I asked him if there were any more things he wanted the students of Mount Saint Joe to know about him. “A lot of kids just don’t know that I have two kids, I have a ten-year-old and a five-year-old, I’ve been married for eleven years.” However, the ending point he made, that he wanted students to know was that he likes “when kids say ‘Hi’. Not (necessarily) to me… but just like when I see people interact with each other on campus…I think that’s pretty cool.”

Joey Johnson, Senior

Joey Johnson is a senior and a member of the Multimedia Journalism class.

Taking the Front Row with Chris Herren

Chris Herren spoke at MSJ about his life experiences and implored students to learn from his mistakes. (Photo by Chase Hite)

We had the privilege of listening to Mr. Chris Herren speak to us about his journey through life and his struggles with alcohol and drug addiction. His story about overcoming his problems and his close-calls with death are incredible and should be kept in mind while advancing in our high school careers.

Chris Herren, born September 27, 1975 in Fall River, Massachusetts, was a truly outstanding basketball player. He scored over 2,000 points in his high school career at Durfee High School and was named a McDonald’s All American in 1994. Upon accepting a scholarship to play basketball at Boston College, he suffered a wrist injury his first year and was sidelined. The injury was followed by numerous failed drug tests for marijuana and cocaine, and Herren was expelled from the team and the university. He was then given another chance by coach Jerry Tarkanian in Fresno, California and finished the rest of his college career at Fresno State where he averaged 17.5 points per game in his first year. After failing yet another drug test in October of 1997, Chris was put in a rehabilitation center for 28 days. After returning, he finished his college career with 15.1 PPG and 5.1 APG.

His dreams of being a professional Basketball player came to fruition when he was drafted 33rd overall in the 1999 NBA draft by the Denver Nuggets. After playing for the Nuggets for one year, he averaged 5.8 PPG and 4 APG. In an ESPN 30 for 30 titled “Unguarded,” Herren revealed that Veteran Nugget players Nick Van Exel and Antonio McDyess kept Herren on track during his time in Denver: “There is going to be no drinking, there is going to be no smoking, when we go on road trip, you’re going to report in to us, and we’re going to watch every move you make.” On his first day back in the practice facility, coach Dan Issel informed him that he’d been traded to his hometown Boston Celtics. This was both a blessing and a curse, as he would be able to play for the team he’d been rooting for his whole life, but he was inserted into a situation where he was close to his buddies and knew exactly where to get drugs. While his drug problem was calmer in Denver, it became more serious in Boston.

This is the second time that Herren has talked at St. Joe, both times to an attentive school audience. (Photo by Chase Hite)

When he became addicted to Oxycontin during his time in Boston, his lifelong dream of playing for his hometown team turned into a nightmare. He started to live a life of deception, lying to his wife about where he’d be. “I would call my wife and say ‘I’m going to stay after and get some jumpers up,’ and then I’d gun it to Fall River to go meet some guy, and then I’d fly back to Waltham and act like I’d just gotten out of practice,” said Herren in “Unguarded.” At this point in Herren’s career, he needed the drugs to be able to function.

After Herren suffered a knee injury with the Celtics, he was sidelined and then released by them. He then signed a contract to play overseas Basketball in Italy. After that, he played in Japan, China, Turkey, Poland, and Iran. Playing international basketball was when his heroin addiction started. At one point, he was making $22,000 a month, and spending $12,000 of it on drugs alone (Unguarded, 2011). After He came back to Fresno, he suffered a huge derailment from his career and stopped playing. He had overdosed a few times and had been put in Modesto County Jail following a heroin injection. He eventually entered recovery in a rehab facility and has been sober ever since (9 years).

The talk that Mr. Herren gave specifically to us was moving for me, as I’m sure it was for many of you. There were many points that were very heartfelt and relatable. For example, Mr. Herren’s main goal in speaking to schools like ours is not that he can make a significant impact on the entire crowd, but just one person. One person out of 2,000 means that he has done his job. He shared many stories about the people he has reached throughout his tours around the country. One story was about the only girl in the auditorium who raised her hand to ask a question, who was given the courage to share her story with the people that picked on her. Also, he shared about boy whom he referred to as “Music Marcus,” who walked up to Mr. Herren in the middle of his speech, with tears in his eyes, and gave him a hug. A sad note to that story was when Mr. Herren returned to the school and was informed by the principal that Marcus had killed himself.

The next point that I want to emphasize is a direct quote from something he said in his speech. He had told us that he’d spoken to many professional sports teams like the New England Patriots, Green Bay Packers, Seattle Seahawks, Cleveland Cavaliers, Golden State Warriors, and more. He then proceeded to let us know that he was disappointed in our school. The reason that he gave is something I still think about. He said, “In talking to all these big guys like Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, Steph Curry and Lebron James, there is one thing that they all had in common. They sat in the front row. Now, I look around this auditorium and I see over one thousand people here, and not one of them is sitting in this front row.” That was very moving for me, and I’m not sure as to whether that row was purposefully vacant or vacant by choice, but it stuck itself in my brain. What I took away from that is if you really want to get better at something, whether it is a sport or a hobby or even an addiction, you must be willing to sit at the front lines and be an advocate for your own change.

Chris Herren’s talk with the Mount Saint Joseph Community was very insightful and hopefully inspired many to become an advocate for their own change. We thank Mr. Herren for his time here at Saint Joe and hope to have him back in the future.