Tag Archives: Student News

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.

Munch on Lunch: Campus Cuisine takes over the cafeteria

The disrupted food supply chain, staffing issues, and decreasing demand caused the Mount St. Joseph administration to change the student lunch service in the cafeteria. Campus Cuisine was the perfect fit to serve the school, according to Mr. Chris Sapienza, the Mount CFO. Mr. Sapienza said, “We interviewed a couple of different places. This one seemed well-established. I think they have been in business for 26 years.” Though change may seem complicated, this transition from an expensive, struggling lunch service moved to an easier way of delivering students their meals. 

Mr. Chris Sapienza gets ready for the next batch of students coming in for lunches.

For Mr. Sapienza, the decision was simple: “The reason we picked them was because of their reputation. The prices are pretty close to what you would get if you went to the store yourself.” When Mr. George Andrews announced the official change, the sentiment around the school was a disappointment, and some people expressed their willingness to bring lunch. Once given the opportunity, though, a wave of positivity flowed through campus as more people began to purchase their lunch via Campus Cuisine. According to Mr. Sapienza, the experience could not be more effortless: “Campus Cuisine sets up everything at the restaurants. They come twice a day with deliveries, once at 9:00 and once at 11:00—first delivery for C Period, Homeroom, D Period; second delivery for E Period and F Period.” I received a copy of the lunch reports from March 8, which showed a synopsis of the straightforward way the Campus Cuisine administration delivers the food. When walking me through the lunch order from that day, Mr. Sapienza spoke about their arrangement: “The first order is going to include these three [periods], so we have 72 slices of cheese, so we should have nine pizzas. If we don’t—and there’s only eight—we know ‘Hey, you got to go back and get another.”

Shane Lowman and his family own the place [John’s Italian Deli], he’s a grad, and it’s nice to give a grad and a Mount Family some business, too. Chef Paolino is a Mount family as well, and they love the business and it’s been great for them.”

— Mr. Chris Sapienza

The company, created by Kathryn Kreimer, has built a solid foundation and excellent reputation. Founded in 1996, schools similar to ours use Campus Cuisine and have discovered great success in the cafeteria. “There was a school in Rhode Island—Bishop Hendrickson High School—they are Catholic, all-male, and very similar to us. I think they have about 750 students, and they are a big school, just like us,” added Mr. Sapienza. A conversation with the administration helped with the decision in choosing Campus Cuisine: “I talked to Denise [Director of Food Services at Bishop Hendricken] about the process and everything like that, so she made me feel comfortable with moving forward with Campus Cuisine.”

As a business, Campus Cuisine garners a profit using a standard technique: “So the restaurants charge Campus Cuisine basically what you would pay at the restaurant. Campus Cuisine, for the website and their administration, they add a fee on top of that—about 15%—so it sounds like a lot, but it’s not if you think about it.” Due to the 6% tax in Maryland, Campus Cuisine accumulates a 9% margin compared to the store price.

Mr. Michael and Ms. Ursula get ready to hand out the lunches for Period D lunch.

Before the service started, I heard from classmates that the food looked expensive. Mr. Sapienza admitted this as the one negative he has heard about the business: “I haven’t heard anything negative about it except, obviously, pizza is $3, so that’s cheap, the menu prices range from $3 to $14, it can be expensive if you are ordering every day.” He also acknowledged his disappointment about the lack of feedback received from students and staff: “I’ve heard from folks: ‘Oh, they love the subs,’ pizza always sells, Chick-fil-A always sells, they were really excited about the Mexican restaurant [El Patron].”

Mistakes within the ordering service happen, though, and the new vending machines act as the solution to these problems. With these, they can serve a full lunch without taking away from another order. Also, the restaurant connections to our school help with the emotional part of the lunch business. “That’s [John’s Italian Deli] another MSJ family, Shane Lowman and his family own the place, he’s a grad, and it’s nice to give a grad and a Mount Family some business, too. Chef Paolino is a Mount family as well, and they love the business, and it’s been great for them.”

Through this challenging switch between lunch services, Campus Cuisine has stepped up to take on the challenge. A high-priced, struggling operation was changed, and they moved in to provide students with the latest advancement in lunch production. With their help, Mount St. Joseph has provided students with an option-filled, friendlier lunch experience in the cafeteria.

Alex Kwas is a freshman member of The Quill

“Monolingual is the minority” – Learning a foreign language is key to global success

At Mount St. Joseph, we spend a lot of our time studying subjects such as mathematics, science, history, or English because we’ve been told that it is “important” within our choice of major for college and career. Yet we seldom seem to hear about the importance of a foreign language. After all, I hadn’t given it much through since I no longer pursued my French language study. Even in our school system Math, Science, English, and History are all classes you have to take for 3 or 4 years, no excuse, yet in foreign language, it is only 2 years. So with that knowledge, I set myself out on the journey of finding the fundamental importance of knowing a language that isn’t your own. 

I do think as citizens of the United States we also have to work as ambassadors of the United States to the world. That is learning of the languages and of the cultures. And getting good at it.

Dr. Elizabeth Pease

I decided that I would interview Jonathon Gibbons, a teacher who teaches Spanish, Italian, and the first two levels of French, to better understand why we should study a foreign language with a more self-important look. Most of us students would ask ourselves when exploring a new language would be “Why does it matter for me to study this?” or “Am I wasting my time studying this?” The question as to what we could benefit from studying a new language can be a complex answer for some, but to Mr. Gibbons, it was one of simplicity. “When in the cases of, especially in the ones that we learn, in either Spanish, French, Italian, German, or Chinese. These languages all have rich history and culture phenomenon that are worth knowing.” Gibbons added, “And also to say from my personal experience, in general, if I had not spoken another language I would have not met someone, might not have seen something.”

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When studying anything in high school, we often ask ourselves what the most essential thing to study is? The answer to that question is not as easy as learning Spanish, Italian, or French. Instead, it is one of the people’s motivations for what they want to do with their language knowledge. “If you, for example, are looking to get into, you know, art or history, you probably want to learn Italian or French,” said Gibbons. 

You have now seen why we should study a foreign language, but what do we get from learning a different language? In a sense, it is a case of what you should get from learning a new language. As stated before, a person who finds it necessary should want to study it for maybe a goal of history or art. A way of having this appreciation is for having the ability to go to see a film and understand the language they are speaking, even if you aren’t as good at that language. Or it can even unexpectedly help you. Mr. Gibbons explained how suddenly, it can help you, “I would say more practically, deal with survival situations when need be. Not only to help yourself but also another person.” 

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If you are a junior or soon to be junior, you likely think about continuing down the path of studying a foreign language. Dr. Elizabeth Pease believes in the importance of going beyond the basics. “A real simple one is working beyond the beginner basics in one subject area and taking it to an intermediate advance level, is just a very good exercise and experience in the foreign language.” For us to continue the study would be like taking a higher math subject from what we are required to do, you could do the same for a foreign language. 

So yes, there is some use to studying a foreign language beyond the two years required. However, some students may already know a foreign language before going to MSJ. Now, this is probably just a far-off example, yet it is a natural thought because of the many people that go to this school. The simple answer is that it would be beneficial to be bilingual and be trilingual, which can benefit you in life in the long run, or it can help you study the language you already know to improve for a variety of reasons. “They would still really need to study the written form of the language, the grammar, and greater precision of the language. So they still may need to keep studying that very same language,” Dr. Pease said.  

More of the world is bilingual or multilingual than is monolingual. Monolingual is the minority. We don’t want to be the minority, we want to compete, we want to be able to connect, we want to bring goodwill to others.

Dr. Elizabeth Pease

The final question I asked was, why should we study a foreign language in university? This was a question I had thought about for a while because what would we exactly do with the language during university. “I do think as citizens of the United States we also have to work as ambassadors of the United States to the world. That is learning of the languages and of the cultures. And getting good at it.” Dr. Pease continued, “More of the world is bilingual or multilingual than is monolingual. Monolingual is the minority. We don’t want to be the minority, we want to compete, we want to be able to connect, we want to bring goodwill to others.”     

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So at the end of the interviewing process, it ended up opening my mind up to learning a foreign language again. Learning about why we study a foreign language was actually more interesting than I imagined it would be. Hearing from people directly involved with the learning and teaching of a foreign language made me appreciate it even more. And I hope it has done the same for you.

Chris DeGroote is a junior member of the Multimedia Journalism class

Does material matter? A look into the revised MSJ dress code

We wanted to simplify the outerwear as much as we can.

Mr. Ryan Luckman, Dean of Students

As Mount St. Joseph eases into the 2021 academic year, confusion regarding the dress code has already taken place. The new rulings impact in-classroom coverings, specifically 1/4 zips. In an act to end the confusion, Mr. Luckman sent a faculty-wide email regarding the new enforced 1/4 zip mandate. According to the email, “Only gray and black 1/4 zips with the school seal on them [or MSJ], bought from the school store, may be worn during class, all other outer coverings are coats and should be removed during the class period.” As most students are aware, the hunt for illegal outerwear has been ongoing since the second week of school. But what does this new ruling precisely encapsulate? I interviewed Mr. Luckman, our Dean of Students, to clarify the attempt to end covering chaos.

A senior wearing an “illegal” blue Under Armor 1/4 zip.

Early this year, and years in the past, students have been wearing 1/4 zip coverings from companies like Under Armor, Patagonia, and Columbia and have been asked to remove them during class. Senior Jonah Matthews was told that he cannot wear a blue Under Armor 1/4 zip, see above. Students like Jonah are thrown into a spiral of questions on why their covering is not allowed. What makes that covering any different from the school-store 1/4 zip coverings? If the covering matches one of the permitted school colors, why must it be removed? The answer is the material of the 1/4 zip. The administration believes that the fabric of the covering determines its appropriateness.

This change made by Mr. Luckman was “all based on making it easier for teachers and staff,” to determine the correct covering. Mr. Luckman stated, “Some students are wearing things that kinda have (a) flat look to them, but then they have sweatshirt material inside…that’s a no-go.” He explained how the covering worn by Jonah Matthews would be allowed two years ago, but is now a violation of the dress code.

The new MSJ Seal (sweatshirt material) 1/4 zip from the School Store

The reason the material matters to administration is because of its connection to professionalism. I asked Mr. Luckman to dive deeper into professionalism and how material indicates that idea: “You don’t see too many people going to work at a business with a sweatshirt…we [the administration] don’t want anything that’s sweatshirt material.” So even if you wear the new light grey 1/4 zip with the MSJ seal (see above) from the school store, it is deemed unprofessional due to its sweatshirt-like material, and you will be asked to remove it during class. But you can wear it all around campus in between classes for that five-minute break!

For the past few years, students were allowed to wear 1/4 zips with sweater-like material. This led to the question: What is sweater-like material? This question can then snowball into a disruption of class time where a teacher must debate with a student over their apparel. Situations occurred where a teacher has told a student to remove their covering at the end of the day while this student has been allowed to wear it in all of his other classes. Students and faculty alike are adjusting to the full-time return to school, and are also adjusting to the new outerwear rule and its application. For example, I had a conversation about whether the Mount Saint Joseph 1/4 zip sweaters sold from the School Store a few years ago are allowed.  I would think the answer is yes, based on my conversation with Mr. Luckman.

After talking with Mr. Luckman, I think the revised rules are straightforward. Students can, in class, wear either of the two 1/4 zips from the school store, a cardigan or pullover sweater of the appropriate school colors, or a blazer. Hopefully will help faculty and staff quickly determine if the student is appropriately dressed for school.

Ethan Webber is a senior member of the Multimedia Journalism class.