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John Paul the Great models collegiate readiness program

Saint John Paul the Great Catholic High School in Potomac Shores Freshman Seminar, a semester-long, holistic course for ninth graders, is helping ease the transition between middle and high school — not only academically and socially, but emotionally as well. 

“The course is considered a real-time orientation to high school and the JP community, and covers topics such as Google applications, the school charism, time management, organization and study skills, digital citizenship, interpersonal communications, collaboration and leadership, public speaking, and copyright law,” said Dominican Sister Malia Grace Reed, founder and curriculum developer of Freshman Seminar. “Students are given guidance and real-life application opportunities on how to integrate the skills into the rest of their academic courses.”

Sister Malia Grace was inspired to create Freshman Seminar by the overwhelming success of first-year seminars at the college level. This success is mirrored at John Paul the Great, where the guidance and admissions departments have reaped the benefits of the program that’s in its second year.

“Schools have resources that act as life preservers, Freshman Seminar teaches students how to swim to the life preservers," said Daniel Kochis, director of guidance. "More than just teaching time management and organization, Freshman Seminar helps the freshman class establish a very strong cohort and identity … There's lots of social capital gained from the seminar. Social capital is hard to measure but as a school, we see and feel it."

“I was able to take my mistakes and failures and use them to learn more about myself and improve my overall school experience,” said sophomore Ethiana Hasch on her experience in Freshman Seminar last year. “Failure no longer frightens me and it is because of what I learned in Freshman Seminar.”

“To borrow a common cliché, we see our students no longer simply surviving, but thriving,” said Sister Malia Grace. “John Paul students are happy students — we want them to remain this way even as the stressors of the academic world seem more adamant to crush them every year.”

Collins is program coordinator at Saint John Paul the Great Catholic High School in Potomac Shores.

Find out more

‘How to High School,’ a readiness workshop for seventh and eighth graders, will be held Jan. 11, noon–4p.m. For more information and to register, go to jpthegreat.org.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2019