Category Archives: News

The casual and competitive benefits of cycling

With spring slowly approaching, many opportunities open up for outdoor activities. One of these activities is bike riding, also known as cycling. Now the casual Mount Saint Joe student, not already invested in bike riding, might overlook this activity, especially when presented with sports like football and basketball. But bike riding can be a casual activity that helps improve your health, and an outlet for competitive sport.

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Let us start by looking at cycling from a casual perspective. Cycling is both easily accessible and an easy-to-master exercise tool to keep in shape. And it shows, as around 51.4 percent of the United States population take up cycling, showing off its popularity.

Cycling is an aerobic activity, designed to work out your lungs, heart, and blood vessels. As a result, cycling is recommended to reduce health problems.

Cycling can also be beneficial to your mental health. Studies show that people who cycle regularly have a lower risk of depression and anxiety. This is because cycling releases endorphins, chemicals released during activities like exercise, that are shown to reduce stress levels and improve well-being. 

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But the act of cycling isn’t confined to just casual enjoyment. Cycling has the potential to be a highly competitive form of sport. In fact, cycling is one of the events featured in the Olympic games.

One competitive cycling sport is BMX racing. BMX racing, also known as Bicycle Motocross, involves multiple riders competing against each other for first place on a dirt track designed with lots of jumps, turns, and rollers. It definitely is a sport that requires a lot of experience.

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So how can an MSJ student get involved? For those with a competitive spirit, MSJ has a mountain biking team, where you can compete against other schools in the MIAA. So next time the Fall comes around, give the mountain biking team a chance if you are interested.

But for those who are looking for a more casual experience, there are solutions. With the spring, comes the perfect weather for bike riding. If you can, try to take your bike out on a nearby trail and take in the scenery as you build up your health.

Aidan Bajadak is a junior member of the Multimedia Journalism class.

A new school year brings a new food company to the cafeteria

Mount Saint Joseph High School has had a variety of school lunches in the past two to three years. At the start of the 2021-2022 school year, the school was partnered with Unidine. After all the students returned from winter break, St. Joe changed the partnership to Campus Cuisine. Now to begin the 2022-2023 school year, we are partnered with CulinArt. As a student at MSJ, I have heard many opinions on lunches, and during the past week, I’ve interviewed a few classmates to get their views.

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I started with senior Adam Kripas. He told me that his favorite school lunch was this year’s CulinArt. He said he liked CulinArt over the previous year’s lunch, Campus Cuisine, where you had to order ahead of time. His reason was that some days he would come in and not want the thing he ordered anymore, or if he didn’t order something, he liked the concept of just being able to go in and buy school lunch. 

New cafeteria tables are set up for school this year.

I also interviewed junior Barry Smith, who said nearly the same thing as Adam. He said last year wasn’t bad, but it got repetitive. Barry also enjoys this year’s CulinArt school lunch. He likes not having to worry about ordering his lunch ahead of time and being able to buy whatever you want in the cafeteria. He also likes the variety of options, unlike Campus Cuisine.

I interviewed other students, but their answers were the same. Many students seem to like coming into school and buying lunch in the cafeteria instead of having a deadline to order their food. 

The hot food area is prepped for a lunch period. Students can simply grab sandwiches, chicken tenders, and fries.

I interviewed Mr. Mike Burgess, who has been working in the Mount Saint Joseph cafeteria since 2007. He has seen and worked with many different companies and school lunches. Although this year is a new partnership, kids are still buying the same things as always. Mr. Mike said the most cooked meals are chicken tenders, fries, and stromboli – “boy foods,” as he referred to them. He said that that is what the boys want more of and less of the special foods they eat at home. He said, “here, you have the freedom to have different things.” The focus is to provide meals that the students will choose.

To prove Mr. Mike’s point, the students I interviewed, including Adam and Barry, said their favorite things to buy are chicken tenders and fries.

While things have been in flux over the past few years in the cafeteria, it seems as if things have stabilized, and the students seem happy with the current offerings that CulinArt offers. We can only hope that this stability continues and that food choices improve as the school year continues.

Tyler Martin is a junior member of the Multimedia Journalism class

A guide to MSJ’s Campus Ministry program

Spirituality has been a big part of the culture here at MSJ, but something that is very overlooked on campus is MSJ’s campus ministry. Outside of junior retreats, there is so much more that campus ministry has to offer.

Alex Kwas ’25 interviewed Mr. Stromberg, and Martin Edell ’25 interviewed Mr. Bonham.

Student involvement is crucial in any school-wide program, and Campus Ministry has a lot of good representation at the Mount. If you aren’t sure how to get involved or where to get started: don’t worry! We’ve all been there. That being said, it’s crucial to get started. As a student involved in Campus Ministry, I can confidently say that taking the next step in your faith journey while in high school is tremendously beneficial. ’24 JP Fisher says that “being involved with Campus Ministry has been a lot of fun and a very fulfilling way to grow closer to Jesus, but I think one of the strongest ways it has helped me through the Spiritual Direction Program.” The Spiritual Direction Program is a great way to meet individually with a priest or mentor and discuss your faith journey. Talk to your theology teacher for more details!

Students taking part in the liturgy in the Smith Center.

In addition to Campus Ministry, MSJ offers the Xaverian Brother Sponsored Schools (XBSS) program for Xaverian students worldwide to participate in various service and religious opportunities while promoting the Xaverian values of life that are practiced and taught here on campus. ’23 Braeden Smith explained in an interview what XBSS means to him as a student. He says, “Contrary to what many people think, it is different from campus ministry. MSJ’s chapter of XBSS is an organization that represents the school as a part of our 13-school network and leads the development of activities throughout the school that champion Xaverian values. This includes campus ministry, big brother program, Spiritual Guidance, Ryken Service Club, etc.” Braeden and many other students have been given a new perspective on their life as a student here at the Mount.

“As co-leader of the liturgy division of XBSS, I also am blessed to have the opportunity to organize specific liturgical events that occur in campus ministry, from everything like Chapel Friday Masses to our plans for an MSJ Mercy Night. Since freshman year, I have itched to be a part of campus ministry and now having the opportunity to lead and better the spiritual life of students and teachers on campus through liturgy is a dream come true. As a result of my experiences, I will definitely pursue liturgical involvement in my college communities and my church parish when I get older. “

Senior Braeden Smith

Campus Ministry offers excellent encounters and programs for students of all ages, regardless of background and religion. We want to settle the doubts of any student who is willing to join Campus Ministry. “The common misconception is that campus ministry events are only based on prayer. Many of our activities also include fellowship that focus on developing relationships between students. A perfect example is the bible study, called Rise Up on Thursdays. Before we get into the discussion, we have donuts and free time to talk with each other which is a great way to start the day…As well as helping to build relationships, campus ministry activities also provide opportunities to strengthen one’s faith, or if one is not religious, they can meditate, which I can tell from experience is much more beneficial than most people would think.”- Senior Braeden Smith

A group of MSJ and Good Counsel XBSS Students at the XBSS Retreat.
Braeden Smith ’23, Jack Moses ’23, Lathan Imwiko ’23, Christian Wright ’23, and Guy Yogo ’23.

XBSS has a great representation at the Mount, but compared to the athletics program or student council, it is being outweighed. “My advice to those who are hesitant is to not be! The people are very non-judgmental and ready to talk to your about your faith, they love fun, and they love the Lord and want to love you as brothers in Christ. It certainly cannot hurt you to get involved, and I firmly believe you would benefit from it and really bring something important to the organization.”- Junior JP Fisher.

Campus Ministry and XBSS are so unique, and I encourage you to reach out to one of the student members or staff and ask questions and fill out an application to join. You won’t regret it!

David Cohn is a Senior member of the Multimedia Journalism Class.

How the Kelly Scholars’ new PSAT practice program is helping students

As the PSAT is now a few weeks behind us, the Brother James Kelly, CFX Scholar’s new initiative has gone off without a hitch. The class of 2024’s Kelly Scholars participated in morning tutoring sessions and an optional practice test in an attempt to improve scores on the PSAT, and most of its participants have come away with positive results.

According to Mr. Jason Ader, one of the moderators of the Kelly Scholars Program, the main goal is to give students practice. He said, “They’re already good at what they’re doing, but they don’t see the test enough – only once a year…Mount Saint Joe doesn’t teach for the test. We’re not a test-specific school, whereas other schools are.”

The program got its start in the spring of 2022, when Kelly Scholars were asked to sign in to Khan Academy’s Official SAT Practice. This site was linked to CollegeBoard, meaning that students’ PSAT scores would automatically be linked to the site, and students would receive targeted practice based on their scores.

Despite seeming like the perfect practice tool, there was no real incentive to continue to use it, and it fell out of favor among students. While this resource is still available to any MSJ student, this part of the program just wasn’t enough, as Mr. Ader put it, “Students just didn’t want to do it.”

The reading section of Khan Academy’s Official SAT Practice site. Photo credit: Alex Magno

Over the summer, school principal Mr. Frank Espinosa approached the two heads of the Kelly Scholars, Dr. Rebecca Obniski and Mr. Ader, and proposed that they expand on the initiative from the spring. According to Mr. Ader, “Dr. O and I just started brainstorming with the help of Mr. McDivitt and Mr. Espinosa, and this is the original program that we came up with.”

The practice test, which took place on the first of October, consisted of, “A half to three-quarters length practice PSAT test, where the students will take the test under the same sort of timing, and then they’ll get a focused review after that test.” This part of the program was not mandatory, having taken place on a Saturday.

What was mandatory were the four-morning tutoring sessions that took place over the span of two weeks. Each focused on its own specific section, one on reading, one on factoring, one on writing and grammar, and a final class on word problems. “The morning sessions thus far have been well attended…but no matter what, it has been more practice, and the more problems you see, the more prepared you are for the actual PSAT.”

Reactions to the morning sessions among Kelly Scholars were somewhat mixed. According to Mr. Ader, “some students I’ve talked to have said that it’s been incredibly helpful, others haven’t.” Riley Payne from the class of 2024 has more of an unorthodox opinion of his experience.

Riley Payne going over a PSAT practice test in the library. Photo credit: Alex Magno

According to Payne, he struggled a bit to pay attention each morning before school, “I think that’s what inspired me to seek out more practice on the test because I was thinking to myself, ‘I probably won’t remember most of this by the time I take the PSAT.’”

“I was able to look at most of those problems and say: ‘Oh, I’ve seen this one before.” I was feeling pretty confident in my accuracy,” said Payne.

Students are currently waiting for the results of the PSAT Test that they took earlier this month. But if the numbers are an improvement, as is hoped by Mr. Ader, then the program may be implemented and expanded for next year’s Kelly scholars.

Alex Magno is a member of the Multimedia Journalism class

Thinking about options for next year already? Consider these electives

Although this brand new school year has just started, it’s never too early to consider what classes you want to fill up your schedule next year. Some classes stay the same, like Theology and Math classes, while other students might have opted into electives. One unique thing about Mount Saint Joe is that they offer different electives that you, as a student, have the choice to take. Many students like to learn new things, but they may not be familiar with what is available given their schedules. With this being said, students find themselves trying to decide what electives they feel are worth taking. I will talk about some electives and why you should take them.


One interesting elective choice is the Philosophy elective. One thing that makes this class unique is that it is taught by two teachers, Mr. Michael O’Donnell and Mr. Clay Bonham. The primary purpose of this class is for people who ask deep questions; they can maybe find an answer they are comfortable with. I got to interview Mr. Bonham, asking him some questions about the elective. When I asked Mr. Bonham why he teaches philosophy, he said, “I really liked the course in college, and I found myself asking the same questions that philosophy talks about.” Mr. Bonham also told me that Philosophy helps with different college career paths. “It can help you with different career paths, especially those concerned with morality and ethics.” If you ask these questions or maybe just want a deeper understanding of nature and life itself, this is the elective for you.

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Art Fundamentals

At MSJ, an art credit is required for all students to have to graduate. For people who play an instrument, this can help complete an art credit. Those who are talented in computer art can do digital art classes. But for those who might not be interested in a high-level art class or want to create art on paper, Art Fundamentals is the class to take. Art Fundamentals, taught by Mr. Bryan Bieniek, allows students to create artwork with flexible deadlines and in a relaxed environment. I got to ask Mr. Bieniek about the class, “This class helps you open up the creative part of your mind.” When I asked Mr. Bieniek about the impact an art class can have on potential college career paths, he told me, “it helps people with engineering and architecture majors because of the concept of creating new designs.” Art Fundamentals gives students in the class the ability to find ways to become more creative.

Mr. Bieniek’s classroom. On the tables are clay models made by students in the Art Fundamentals Class.

Other Electives to Consider

Coming from a student, I know from first-hand experience the benefits that these electives can have. Another elective that students might find interesting is the Business Law elective taught by Mr. Jerry Naylor. When interviewing my brother, John Avara ’19, and former student of Mr. Naylor’s Business Law class, he told me, “if you have aspirations to own your own business one day, this class is for you.” Another elective worth taking is the Multi-Media Journalism elective. Similar to Art Fundamentals, this class allows you to create what you want with flexible deadlines. The World Language department also offers a selection of Spanish, Italian, French, and Latin. While two language credits are required at MSJ, you are not limited to learning just one of these languages.

Students in the Multi-Media Journalism Class working on interview projects.

MSJ offers the opportunity of learning new topics that most schools don’t teach. While your traditionally required classes like Math, Theology, English, and Social Studies fill up most of your schedule, I suggest leaving open space for some of the electives I mentioned. These electives can expose you to interests you might not have thought you had.

Stephen Avara, Junior

Stephen Avara is a junior member of the Multimedia Journalism Class.

“We’re working for everybody” – The thought process behind Spirit Week

Monday of Spirit Week was Jersey Day & Anything-But-A-Backpack Day

Saint Joe’s Spirit Week has always instilled a fiery pride and passion for the Gael way through many enjoyable events. These engaging, entertaining experiences bring hundreds of Mount brothers together and culminate with a high-energy Homecoming Saturday. Our Director of Student Life, Mr. Sam Bianco ’01, claimed that Spirit Week, “is one of the great traditions that we do here.” But what has made Spirit Week so great every year? What urges students to make an effort to participate in the numerous Spirit Week events every year?

To Saint Joe’s Student Council, student input and inclusivity are the answer. “It’s definitely on the forefront of every decision we make,” says Mr. Bianco. “We’re working for everybody. We’ve really got a diverse set of guys in there. They’re in all different types of classes and all the different clubs and athletics. Those guys have a really good beat on what types of students exist here.” For this year’s Spirit Week, the Student Council has worked to understand every individual Mount Man’s perspective and worked it into Spirit Week. “The whole week is a lot of effort,” continues Mr. Bianco, “believe it or not, we start talking about spirit week in June.”

A recent interview with student council representative Matthew Hockstra tells us that one of the main goals for the council this year is to make sure every student has fun and is included.

I was fortunate to speak with sophomore officer Collin Park about his perspective. He explained, “we propose ideas to Mr. Ader, Ms. Gallagher, and Mr. Bianco [the teachers who lead the student council], and they ask the administrators to see if it would go through. They give us a little path that we can follow, and that path leads to different outcomes.” Collin wanted us to understand that the students had a far greater say in the creation of Spirit Week than we might expect.

Collin further elaborated on the mechanics of the week’s development, sharing that multiple groups were formed to plan different aspects of the week. The idea is that dividing students among separate areas of the week allows every possible idea to shine. This year, Collin’s group worked on revamping the pep rally and competitions. The team worked vigorously to reimplement details enjoyed from previous years, like the inclusion of teachers in the dodgeball and arm wrestling competitions.

However, the competitive spirit is not the only thing refined this year. Mr. Bianco excitedly announced that the Student Council has a brand new decorations committee that’s “going to do some new stuff around campus this year.” In addition, the student tailgate has been excellently polished with a live DJ and brand-new party games. And you can’t forget Monday’s debut of “everything but a backpack day.” Despite all these additions and more, Mr. Bianco was most excited about the Homecoming dance.

“As long as the weather’s good, it’ll look beautiful out there,” he said in anticipation of the dance. “The facilities team is doing lights everywhere outside, We’ve got a DJ, and some great food, including Chick-Fil-A that’s all included in the ticket. And, we have a great giveaway we are very excited about.” When asked about the prize of the giveaway, Mr. Bianco refused to spoil it but said it was “something that students could definitely use.”

“Homecoming day is one of the best days of the year on campus. You could get here at 11 am, watch the soccer team take on their opponent, come over to the tailgate for free food and fun, go back to the football game and join the student section, and go home, shower, and come back for the dance.”

Mr. Sam Bianco ’01, Director of Student Life

For Mr. Bianco, and many other alumni, the thought of Spirit Week brings back many great memories. Mr. Bianco happily shared, “I remember all of those Spirit Weeks. I remember there being a lot of great energy on campus and out on the field. I went to all four of those homecoming games, and I remember all the student sections being huge and the games being exciting; I went to all four of those homecoming dances, and they were all great ones.” By allowing students to lead their own Spirit Week, the tradition has remained fresh for old and new students alike.

Jude Danner is a Sophomore member of the Multimedia Journalism class.