What is the St. Joseph Scholar Program?
The St. Joseph Scholar (SJS) program made its debut at McNicholas for the 2015-2016 school year, beginning with the Class of 2019. According to Julie Dill, French & English teacher and SJS program adviser, the St. Joseph Scholar program is designed to encourage and support students who have strong academic gifts and provide them with opportunities to enhance their knowledge to be better leaders in academics. “It is my goal that St. Joseph Scholars will receive benefits that will be both academic, educational, and also fun,” Dill said.
Admission and Requirements
Incoming freshmen who score in the 95th percentile or higher on the High School Placement Test (HSPT) receive invitations to join the SJS program. “Expectations are high and continue through the whole high school experience,” Dill said. One benefit to the program is a consistently challenging academic curriculum throughout high school. Dill explained that this further prepares the students for college and achieving higher career goals.
Freshmen in the program are required to complete fifteen hours of tutoring over the school year, while current sophomores will participate in at least two group service opportunities organized by program advisers. “When I tutored freshman year, it gave me a chance to do a type of service I would not have thought about before,” sophomore scholar Josh Scales said.
First year scholars are required to take at least three honors-level classes, and all other scholars need four such classes on their schedule. All St. Joseph Scholars must also maintain a minimum 92.5 weighted average over the course of the year.
One requirement for the program is that no member can have any study hall or aid class on their schedule. “I believe that the scholars should be able to have study halls because everyone in the scholar program works hard and deserves a break once in a while,” sophomore scholar Matt Pryor said. Sophie Sponsler, also a second year scholar, agreed and said, “the hard schedule definitely pushes me to achieve more, but a study hall mixed in wouldn’t hurt.”
However, Dill pointed out that this requirement encourages the scholars to take full advantage of the classes that would truly benefit them. “The salutatorian and valedictorian should be the highest achieving students who have taken the most rigorous course schedule over their four years at McNick,” Dill said. Moving forward, she said that the bar is going to be set higher.
While the HSPT score is the only current way scholars are identified for the program, Director of Curriculum Dan Rosenbaum has left the door open for future changes. He said that while it has not been discussed, he is always open to other ideas, including the possibility of students being admitted to the program as a sophomore or junior.
As it is still a newer program with only freshmen and sophomores involved, changes and adjustments are planned for the St. Joseph Scholars, but the core will always be there. “It will look and feel different over the next few years,” Rosenbaum said.
“It would be really cool if senior year we could take the St. Joseph Scholars to New Orleans where the Sisters of St. Joseph started and do a mission trip or some type of final project there to take us out of our community,” Dill said.