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Reflections on a great decade at Saint John Paul the Great

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One of the first full-time employees to begin working at Saint John Paul the Great Catholic High School in Dumfries is leaving this week after nearly a decade. In her final days at the school, Jennifer Cole, director of communications and public relations, talks about her time working at the school, what’s changed and what she hopes to leave for future generations.

Not all of the students know her personally, but they at least know her signature. Cole was the school’s first director of admissions and marketing, building both departments from the ground up. She was behind the school’s messaging, branding and recruitment activities. She was the welcoming signature on the acceptance letter for thousands of students who were offered a seat at John Paul the Great.

When asked about the biggest change she’s experienced during her time at John Paul the Great, she said many things have changed, but some important things have stayed the same. “We started with zero students, and opened in 2008 with 200 freshmen and sophomores. By God’s grace, we’ve grown to more than 750,” she said. With growth in enrollment came growth in every other area, including staffing, academic offerings, and many other programs all aimed at expanding opportunities for students and creating a welcoming community.

“The best part of our growth is that more families and students get to experience the JP community and mission,” said Cole. “Thankfully, our positive, faithful culture has stayed the same. John Paul is a really happy place to study and work.”

The school community has done a lot with a little in a short amount of time. Cole is proud of all the school’s accomplishments. “We started with a construction site, then a big, beautiful building, but not much else,” she said. “Under the leadership of our first principal, (Dominican) Sister Mary Jordan Hoover, we worked hard every day with intention to build programs, policies, and procedures that would serve our students and fulfill our mission,” Cole said. “It’s stunning to look back over the last 10 years and see all that has been accomplished, and all those who have been impacted by the JP experience.”

What does Cole hope for John Paul the Great’s future? She said she would like to see more of the same: a caring community with a strong faith life preparing teens to succeed in higher education and in life. “Our talented faculty and staff care deeply about our students, and about serving Christ. It’s been a gift to work with them, especially our Dominican sisters,” said Cole. “Working hard to make JP better and better is just part of who we are, it’s in our DNA, and I hope that spirit of service and dedication is with the school forever.”

Cole isn’t sure how to best describe her impact on the school, but hopes it’s been meaningful and lasting. Perhaps one of her most important contributions is that she helped hundreds of prospective families understand why John Paul would be a great experience for their son or daughter. Overall, she said the part she loved most was getting to tell the John Paul story, and helping people to become part of it. “It’s been my honor to be part of something so good, so successful and so meaningful. I’m profoundly grateful to God for this special opportunity, and to have met so many wonderful people along the way,” said Cole.

What’s next for Cole? She will continue to work part time on special projects for the school over the next couple months. In January, she will join the Semper Fi Fund full time as their senior director of communications and marketing. While still being based in the Washington area, the new position will allow her to live part time on the West Coast near her family.


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2017