Tag Archives: Student Perspective

The tradition of the tower

We leave our mark; that’s what we do.

Mr. Frank Espinosa, Principal of Mount Saint Joseph High School

At Mount Saint Joseph High School, the sense of unity is almost palpable. As many of the students, teachers, and alumni agree, this unity stems from the school’s vibrant tradition. Traditions like those fostered at The Mount are essential because traditions unite the participants, define their goals, and create a consistency that makes one feel a part of something bigger.  For example, suppose a family fosters a longstanding tradition of visiting ancestors’ graves on their birthdays, each member of the family will feel connected through this tradition. In that case, they’ll realize how important it is to respect their family members, and everyone will see that everyone is loved. When beliefs like these are affirmed so strongly, a family will be united firmly.

As students turn to alumni at Mount Saint Joseph, they often return to teach other students and participate in reunions. This is because their connection to the community continues past their four-year education. Because of our traditions, students feel permanently grafted onto the community. From the school-wide masses to the lively spirit week game nights, all our traditions are made to bring the community together. 

The tower was used to connect the major buildings on campus and was used as a stairwell.

One of the most essential of these traditions, however, began almost as a prank. Around the 1960s, before the campus was remodeled and when Mount Saint Joseph was a boarding school, the tower served as the main staircase for two buildings coming out of it in an L-shape. The students boarded on the lower floors of the building, and none were allowed on the top floor where the brothers lived. Every now and then, the students would see how close they could get to the top floor without getting caught, leaving their names on one of the bricks up there as proof of their accomplishment. And soon, this dare became a rite of passage, and later this rite of passage became a tradition. Now, as seniors approach graduation, each has a chance to sign their name on the bricks of the tower during their theology classes. 

This tradition, in particular, is important for the Mount Saint Joseph community because when a student writes his name on the bricks in permanent ink, he feels like he is permanently part of the community, that he’s permanently left a mark. Mount graduate Mr. Jody Harris said in regards to the tower tradition, “As I went up into the tower, I looked around, and I saw [the signatures of] different people from different eras, and you get a sense that you’re part of something bigger.” The sense of being part of something bigger and being part of the community is what reinforces the unity at Mount Saint Joseph. Mr. Espinosa, the principal at MSJ, said, “We leave our mark; that’s what we do.”

The tradition of signing your name in the tower originated with students sneaking to the upper floors without waking the Xaverian Brothers living there.

Another reason the tower tradition is so important for the community is that each student adds to the school monument when he signs his name on a brick. The tower is what defines our campus. “It’s almost like [the tower has] been cut and pasted in there because it’s so robust and so big that it just towers over everything,” said Mr. Espinosa, “…It’s something to be proud of.” And as the students climb the steps up to the tower and begin to see the signatures and the sprawl of the surrounding neighborhoods, there’s the sense that the tower is a really unique and special place. Mr. Schuberth, a Mount grad, said, “I love seeing [the seniors’] reaction when they step out onto the top of the tower.” He continues, “You’ve been here four years, you think you’ve seen everything there is to see here at Mount Saint Joe, but you go up to the top of the tower, you get to see the campus in a whole new way.” 

Senior looks out on Irvington from the top of the tower.

Later the school tore down the buildings connected to the tower to make way for fresh, new ones. The school had initially made plans to get rid of the tower as well, but the alumni came together to remind them that the tower was something essential to the community at Mount Saint Joseph. It made them feel like they still were a part of the family. Although built 120 years ago, the tower stands today, still uniting the community in 2021. 

Thomas Scharbach is a sophomore member of the Multimedia Journalism class

“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

When a job lays bare the failings of humanity

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“Well, this is America. I didn’t think I’d have to come to little Mexico today.” I froze. My blood pressure spiked. I turned to the man who had dropped such a racially charged comment. I then looked at the Hispanic man next to me. On the first day of my new job, three complete strangers made fully formed profiles of each other in less than a minute. 

In the summer of 2021, I managed to score my dream part-time job. I was a sailing instructor at a watersport rental shop. This shop rented out paddleboards, kayaks, and small sailboats. My job entailed me giving lessons on both days of the weekend, and assisting with the summer camp Eastern ran during the week. 

A job requires a re-evaluation of priorities.

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I arrived on my first day with little information. My work situation was already somewhat irregular; I had not met my boss yet, and I was not officially on my employer’s payroll. That day I had two individuals scheduled for the morning lesson. I prepared a whiteboard, drawing a diagram of the points of sail on it. The first showed up almost thirty minutes early. The second arrived ten minutes late, his reasoning being that he “couldn’t find anyone who spoke English to get directions.” I ignored this and continued my lesson on how to tack. 

“Is that a problem?” The second individual said.

“Well I mean, this is America, they should speak English.”

“They’re Hispanic. They speak Spanish.”

“Well, this is America. I didn’t think I’d have to come to little Mexico today.” Suddenly, on my first day, I was faced with a situation I could not have imagined the morning prior. I was at a loss for words. I stared at the man who had made the comment in utter disbelief. I stared until the other man, a man of Hispanic heritage, spoke.

“I’m leaving.” In my mind, at that moment, the situation became much easier for me. Although he had been wronged, the Hispanic man was content with leaving and rescheduling for another day. Despite my situation becoming much simpler, something was eating at me: Why should the one offended have to leave? Why should his day be ruined? Why shouldn’t we ask the other man to leave? I ran to my manager.

An expletive was my manager’s only response. 

“So what do I do?”

“We’ll get the guy who’s leaving rescheduled. Give the racist the lesson.”


I ran to catch the Hispanic man. He had almost made it back to his car. I briefly apologized for the other customer’s behavior and told him who to call to reschedule. He was very understanding. Before we parted ways that day, he made one request:

“Give the other guy a good lesson, don’t let this color how you treat him. You still have a job to do.” This stuck with me. At the end of the day, I was an employee. I had a job to do. While I may not always like the customer or even my job, I still have a commitment to fulfill.

The day continued, with me and the racist individual in a boat for three hours together. I sat toward the front of the porous catamaran’s trampoline surface, being blasted with waves, waves that chilled me but not as much as the individual’s theories on the earth’s circumference being equal to zero and the “over sensitivity” of the modern generation, something exhibited by the man who he offended- a man who I would later find out has watched patients die. I sat, and listened, and did my job, and despite my discomfort, I believe I am better for it. I heard the other side, I satisfied my duties, and I got paid.

Connor Sciullo is a senior member of the Multimedia Journalism class

Excellence, like Rome, isn’t built in a day

Rome wasn’t built in a day. This phrase is heavily overused, but I love it. Many people envision becoming great and achieving excellence, but very few look into what it takes to reach excellence. My goal is to achieve excellence in hockey and make it to the NHL. I look to Rome as a prime example of achieving greatness, despite its creation story, riddled with dark events and hard times. 

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The legend tells that Rome was started by two brothers, Romulus and Remus. Left in the woods to die, a mother wolf found them, and raised them as her own. As the boys grew, their ambitions followed. They set out to build a city, a monstrous, seemingly impossible task, but one they believed was possible. They began to build the city, brick by brick, with no support, determined to reach their goal. While building the city, the two began to fight over which mountain to build the city upon. Romulus, coming to the realization that his brother Remus was sabotaging the building, Romulus killed Remus and named the city after himself… Rome. 

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Rome took thousands of years to reach its pinnacle, encompassing most of continental Europe, Britain, much of western Asia, northern Africa, and the Mediterranean islands. To become the towering empire it would blossom into, Romans looked to previous empires and civilizations for influence, most notably the Greeks, taking advantage of prior failures and successions to learn and improve upon. I use Rome’s creation story as an analogy for my goal to play in the NHL. While a daunting task, over time, I can develop into the professional player I see myself becoming. 

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The building of Rome can be an analogy for the hard decisions I have made to set myself up to reach my goal. From painful decisions of cutting off relationships with toxic friends, to not going to parties but instead practicing and devoting all free time to improving my game. While I am not at the pinnacle of my game, I’m a work in progress, constantly looking and searching for new ways to improve. Lou Holtz, a Notre Dame football legend, once said, “You don’t stay the same. You get better, or you get worse.” I take this mentality into every situation, striving to achieve my Rome. Working day by day… brick by brick refining my craft.

Ervie Terwilliger is a senior member of the Multimedia Journalism class.