President's Letter

International students enhance our campus

During our recent commencement ceremonies, we graduated 5 of our international students. Jake from Vietnam and Amber, Joseph, Charles and Jason from the People’s Republic of China. All are going on to prestigious universities. Charles will be attending a military academy in Vermont. As they walked across the stage I was reminded how much they have changed over the last few years. While they all knew  English, when they arrived they were not confident in speaking English. They were naturally shy. But not so as seniors about to go on to an American university. I also reminded myself, yet again, how fortunate we are to have international students.  Although they are mostly not Catholic, come from vastly different cultures and different political systems they come to us willing not only to learn our language but our customs and traditions. They also share theirs with us. Several students have told me that their best classes at Saint John’s were those that encouraged them to think and discuss their thoughts and ideas. Not surprisingly they mention, theology, political science, history and literature as among their favorite classes.

If we learn anything from these students, we learn that their dreams, goals, and needs are the same as ours. They seek a good life. They know the value of the freedoms we enjoy. On several occasions our international students have told me how fortunate we are to live in America. Some have told me that they are surprised that so many Americans seem to take their freedoms and opportunities for granted. Sometimes we need reminders about how lucky we are to have been born in America.

Having traveled to China several times to interview students and parents, I am always proud so many Chinese see America as the ideal country, with the best education in the world. Their parents sacrifice a good deal to send them to us. Most are only children. No doubt it is particularly hard for parents to send their child off to a foreign country when they are 14. I couldn’t do it. Thankfully I don’t need to.

For the most part, these students come from privileged backgrounds in their home countries. The cost for them to attend a year at Saint John’s is about $60,000 a year with tuition, fees, homestays expense, travel, visas, insurance and all the other expenses associated with having a teenager. But they endure the costs because of the dream of an American education.

As much as our international students add to our campus, we are cautious that we do not want to become an international school. Our Trustees have wisely put a limit on the number of international students we will enroll. That limit is 30 students or 10% of our student body.

I am confident that when our students return to their home countries as adults they will become business executives, professionals, and leaders. Let’s hope and pray that they remember the lessons they learned at Saint John’s. Hopefully, they have established life-long friends who will stay connected with them throughout their lifetimes and the values they learned at our school will help guide their actions as adults.

As our country deals with the challenges of a global world and competing agendas between and among nations perhaps our small international effort will lead to a peaceful world of better understanding and respect for our similarities, not our differences.


The Asphalt Plant Challenge

We continue the fight to stop the plans to build a hot asphalt plant across from our school. The next public hearing is scheduled for June 27 at 7:00 PM at Winchester Hall in Frederick. We will have a number of students and faculty give testimony. I urge all parents to attend to show support for blocking this plant.

My chief argument to Frederick County focuses on their earlier approval for us to build a school on Buckeystown Pike. After the school was established the County further protected the area by giving us special zoning as a school. The County cannot now simply ignore that we exist and grant the development of a business that is incompatible with a school. The noise, traffic, odors, and pollutants associated with hot asphalt plants are well documented. No reasonable person would suggest that it is proper to permit these plants anywhere near a school.  Hopefully, our County officials will see the folly of the proposed plans and meet their responsibilities to protect our students.

God bless,                                                                                                            

Thomas H. Powell