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Ireton prepares students for the future with Real World Wednesdays

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As Head of School Kathleen McNutt interacted with alumni of Bishop Ireton High School in Alexandria, she heard a common refrain — “Let me know what I can do.” So she and other school leaders began to brainstorm how to best use their alumni connections to serve the students and the wider Ireton community.


They came up with Real World Wednesdays, “a program meant to connect current Ireton students with a diverse group of people beyond the classroom who can spark their interest further or even assist them in the future,” McNutt wrote in the email to the community. While the target audience is current students, alumni and parents also are able to tune in.


The first Real World Wednesday in October featured alumnus John Applewhite Jr., an entrepreneur and the co-inventor and developer of the Super Soaker and Nerf brand product lines. Sophomore Jude Sparrow, who hopes to be a business owner, eagerly recalled the nitty gritty advice he picked up from Applewhite’s presentation.


“If you create something that you think is smart, instead of just trademarking it immediately, you should get a patent on it instead because it will be more viable for making money in the future. That was one thing that stood out to me personally,” said Sparrow.


His enjoyment of that first talk led him to tune in to the second one, a talk about vocations featuring alumni Father Christopher J. Pollard, pastor of St. John the Beloved Church in McLean; Father Edward J. Bresnahan, parochial vicar of St. Andrew the Apostle Church in Clifton; and Deacon Malcolm D’Souza of Holy Spirit Church in Annandale.


As a father and a husband, Deacon D’Souza spoke about the call to marriage in addition to his vocation to the permanent diaconate. “Marriage and the diaconate are also vocations that we’re called to and those are very serious, as well as the priesthood and religious life,” he said.


Deacon D’Souza hadn’t considered the diaconate in high school, so he believes he would have benefited from Real World Wednesdays as a student, both in terms of learning more about a possible vocation and a future career. “I definitely think this would’ve helped out a great deal,” he said. “I think it sparks your interest and you say, ‘Oh look at that, that’s (one) of our Bishop Ireton alumni.’ ”


The school has had past sessions featuring members of the military and the school counselors. In the next few months, it plans to have one with people who work in athletics and another with those who work on behalf of the poor.


McNutt is glad the school was able to launch Real World Wednesdays this year. “As we were envisioning this last year, we certainly weren't expecting a pandemic,” she said. “It has really been a blessing in a time where connection is so important and so hard to come by, and this avenue has provided great opportunities for outreach in so many ways. It has really brought great joy.”


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2021