St. Augustine Prep Blog
St. Augustine Prep – An Augustnian Adventure Where Men Find Their Mission
By Brendan Towell –
As a young boy, I didn’t mind reading books but what I loved most were “coming of age” movies. I would watch and then re-watch films that were my favorites like The Karate Kid, the original Star Wars Trilogy, and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (the 1990 version, not the 2014 nonsense). What I loved about these movies was the sense of adventure that they brought into the life of a young boy trying to find his way in the world; especially a world which often set the bar for men no higher than mediocre.
Danny LaRusso, Luke Skywalker, and even the Turtle Brothers didn’t know what they were missing until they were propelled out of their little domestic spaces into the wilder world full of action and danger. In almost every one of these you have a main character who is in need of help, even if he doesn’t know it. Whether it is some external threat like the bully at school or an internal threat like fear or anxiety, there is a moment when we meet the ever-important character of the mentor; call him “Mr. Miyagi” or “Yoda” or “Master Splinter”, it doesn’t really matter. That mentor figure is the one that helps the boy see that the life he is living isn’t really about him – it is about a higher calling which will, in turn, enable him to be more than he ever thought he could be. These mentors, these teachers of timeless truths, are scattered throughout great literature and cinema and I was drawn to them, as most boys are, like bees to honey.
It’s these types of teachers that every young boy hopes to have, for real, in their own classes and, luckily for me, I had a few of my own. They may not have used magic wands like Dumbledor, read my mind like Professor X, or made me chase chickens like Mick from Rocky, but they did make magic happen with that piece of chalk; they did seem to understand me in ways I didn’t even realize; they did push me out of my comfort zone using some unorthodox methods.
Regardless of the time or era, the best teachers have always been those who have empowered their students to seek out and find their mission and our patron, St. Augustine was no exception. The young Augustine was himself already a teacher, but he was adrift in life. Unsatisfied with what the world had to offer, he sought fulfillment in a variety of different philosophies and “schools” of thought. It wasn’t until he encountered the great Bishop of Milan, St. Ambrose, that Augutine found the Mr. Miagi he was looking for.
It was Ambrose who took the young Augustine and helped set him on a journey of faith where he came to encounter the true Teacher of us all – Jesus Christ. That experience, that contact with Jesus, transformed Augustine’s life and gave him a mission and a purpose. Without the help of Ambrose, that may not have ever happened. As an Augustnian educator myself, I can now see that the “coming of age” experiences of my own youth, and those of Augustine himself, are the same as those of the young men of South Jersey that I am blessed to serve. I truly believe that St. Augustine Prep has the unique ability to aid young men on their life’s journey and properly equip them for the many adventures they are sure to have.
Consider both the physical and Academic setting the Prep provides. Nestled in the woods of South Jersey, away from the hustle and bustle of larger towns and cities, the 118 acre campus is both secluded and safe. Outside distractions can be limited as the students assemble from 8 counties and over a 75 mile radius with one goal – to better themselves in mind, body, and spirit. With an average class size of 17 students and a Student-to-Faculty Ratio of 14:1, our young men are being educated in an optimal environment geared towards their success. In addition, the wide-range of course offerings, which includes over 45 AP & Honors-courses, is part of the reason why the Prep can boast SAT scores higher than both the NJ Average and National Average. When a boy’s education is geared in a more specific way for him the results speak for themselves.
As we all know – boys like to do “stuff” and at St. Augustine Prep we have cultivated an environment of participation. 100% of our young men take part in activities beyond the classroom. This often includes membership in one or more of our 22 Athletic Programs (which include over 50 NJ State Championship teams). In addition to Athletics, 91% of our students participate in at least one of our 40+ leadership and club opportunities. Involvement in extracurriculars, especially those that allow for physical activity, have especially proven benefits for a young man’s development across the board.
Our Campus Ministry programs are an essential component of the Prep experience. In a world often devoid of quiet and contemplation, we believe that as often as boys need to be active, they also need to learn to be still in mind and body. Opportunities for prayer and reflection, as well as the participation in the liturgical and sacramental life of the school are offered weekly. Each year students have opportunities to participate in class-specific retreats which culminate with a Kairos Retreat for all seniors. Focusing on both the exterior as well as the interior, these retreats help young men develop empathy skills and broaden their understanding of larger social issues.
Lastly, and most importantly, we have outstanding teachers, coaches, staff, and Augustinian Friars who act as advocates and serve as models of servant leadership. Young boys in the transition to manhood we call “adolescence” need, above all else, these mentor figures in their life. Without them and without an environment in which those relationships can grow and be nurtured, you will continue to see a generation of men devoid of purpose and without any sense of mission. Recall what Mr. Miyagi said to Danny: There is no such thing as a bad student, only bad teachers. At St. Augustine Prep we know this to be true and we know that information alone doesn’t make the student – the teacher does!
At St. Augustine Prep we know what it takes to help form boys to become the men God is calling them to be; not men of mediocrity – men of mission!
About the Author: Brendan Towell serves St. Augustine in the classroom as part of the Theology Department; the athletic arena as the Head Coach of the Hermits Rugby program and the school as the Assoc. Dir. of Admissions & Alumni Leadership. He is a prime example of the dedicated faculty and staff who serve the young men of St. Augustine Prep. These talented men and women live the mission of the school and impart their passion as lifelong learners upon the students placed in their care. Do you know a young man who is eager to join this learning community? Live the St. Augustine Experience for a day and us at the 2021 Hermits Open House scheduled for Thursday, November 4, and Friday, November 5. Visit hermits.com/openhouse or email email@example.com today!