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Carrying lessons learned

First slide

The summer before his junior year, Grant Tabler was praying during a Lutheran church service when he felt something wasn't right. It took a minute for the born-and-raised Protestant to realize he was missing the Mass, which he had encountered as a student at Saint John Paul the Great Catholic High School in Dumfries. That moment was the beginning of his conversion, said Tabler.

Though he still had moments of doubt, it was his mother who encouraged him to be received into the church. "My mom told me, 'This is the happiest I've ever seen you - this is something God is calling you to,' " he said. Surrounded by the Dominican sisters who staff the school, his religion teacher and godfather, Gerard-Marie Anthony, Tabler became a Catholic April 4, 2015.

John Paul the Great gave Tabler his faith in addition to many other opportunities, such as the chance to sing at Carnegie Hall. His choir director, Kelly Kingett, encouraged him to audition for an international voice competition, which he was a part of for two years.

Through the school, he was able to see Pope Francis when he visited the White House in the fall of 2015. His sister was selected to go through the school lottery, but gave her brother the ticket instead. "I'm an emotional person so I started to tear up, and it was great family moment," he said. "It was a beautiful experience to just be in the presence of our Holy Father."

Tabler has spent much of his high school years giving back to the school he loves. He served in student government, was a student ambassador and co-founded the school's service club. Over the years, the club has visited nursing homes, held trash pick-ups and hosted the Beach Bash, a festival that raises money among the students for Catholic Charities. On his own time, Tabler also is involved in fighting human rights violations in Vietnam.

Next year, Tabler hopes to study government at the University of Virginia while bringing the values he learned with him. "(This school) has made me a better person and I can't wait to carry the lessons that John Paul the Great has taught me into college and to the rest of the world," he said.

Di Mauro can be reached at zdimauro@catholicherald.com or on Twitter @zoeydimauro.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016