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News Story

Cura Personalis at Georgetown Prep’s Residential Life Program

By Mike Gabriele

Cura Personalis is a uniquely Jesuit Latin phrase meaning “care for the person”—the whole person—mind, body, and spirit. This particular Jesuit idiom also accurately encapsulates an experience that is uniquely Georgetown Prep—residential life.

Georgetown Prep is the only Jesuit high school—and one of the few Catholic high schools—in the United States offering students the option to board. In fact, until 1960, most of Georgetown Prep’s student body lived on campus in Boland Hall. Today, a quarter of its students live on campus in a new campus center and residence hall that opened in 2022 for 120 students, with 16 apartments for dorm parents.

“The residential life program here at Georgetown Prep offers all students, both day and resident, all the benefits of an international boarding program. We are indeed a global campus,” said Georgetown Prep President Fr. James Van Dyke, SJ. “And this new facility has made it a place where these resident students, some who come from more than 8,000 miles away, can truly call home.” Students from 15 states and 20 countries call Georgetown Prep home during the school year.

State-of-the-art living spaces foster engagement between students, helping to build lasting bonds between boys from many varied backgrounds.

“The kids who live here are amazing,” said Residential Dean Joseph By Mike Gabriele Harkins, ’96. “The bravery it takes to leave home at 14, sometimes from thousands of miles away, is unfathomable to me. I’m awed by how strong these boys are and how quick they are to welcome, accept, and help one another become a part of what we have here.”

What Georgetown Prep has nurtured on campus over the years is a diverse student community that builds on one another. Zhendong “Dino” Yu is a senior from Shanghai, China. “My on-campus living experience at Georgetown Prep has enhanced my ability to communicate effectively with friends and peers,” he said. “My daily interactions have allowed me to refine my interpersonal skills, enabling a more adept and nuanced approach to communication with those in my immediate surroundings.”

Resident life at Georgetown Prep is a learning experience that indeed goes beyond the classroom. “Living with students from all around the world, I have learned about many other rules and values from different countries, cultures, and even religions. Understanding the diverse principles of life, I am able to reflect and adapt my own set of values. I have become more open and thoughtful about my faith and the ultimate purpose of life,” explained Juneho Yeo from South Korea, who is also graduating this spring.

Fellow students and dorm parents assist with academic growth, emotional well-being, and the physical health of student residents.

A robust dorm parenting team, consisting of faculty who reside with their families in apartments within the residence hall, is a key factor to this successful program. The modern, spacious living quarters, coupled with a true desire to make students feel at home, is a testament to why 16 teachers have dedicated themselves, and their own families, to life at Prep. In addition to serving as residential dean, Joe Harkins is a dorm parent, living on campus with his wife and daughter. “Our dorm parents are dedicated to this on-campus community, and they believe in our common mission. They want to help these boys grow into good men, and they show them how to do that not only with their words but through the way they live their lives every day. The boys see everything. Nothing gets past them. They know they are loved and cared for by their dorm parents. These men and women go out of their way to get boys to doctor’s appointments, make cookies for their birthdays, and share their homes and families with them.”

“The positive atmosphere dorm parents bring into the program made me feel like I was part of the family,” said Masamune Enomoto, a recent graduate from Tokyo, Japan. “I had the best night at Prep when some dorm parents joined our nightly resident soccer matches.” Luis Barrenechea, a junior from Bilbao, Spain, agreed. “Prep’s boarding program offers a variety of activities during the weekends that help each student feel like part of a family and form a brotherhood with fellow students.”

Students who reside at Georgetown Prep from the United States also feel that closeness and benefit as well from an experience that prepares them for the future. “To be a part of this program is truly a blessing,” said Malachi Streeter, a junior resident from Southern Maryland. “Being familiar with this environment provides me with confidence that I’ll be able to express myself when interacting with new people in college and beyond.”

Mandarin teacher Wei Kelley works with students in the kitchen of the new residence hall’s student center to help them learn about food from other cultures.

Another aspect of the residential life program that exemplifies distinct Jesuit values is how it enables students from area Jesuit middle schools in lower-income neighborhoods to continue a Jesuit education at George- town Prep. “The resident life program here offers students from Washington Jesuit Academy and Saint Ignatius Academy in Baltimore an opportunity they normally wouldn’t have,” said Harkins. “It places them with other boys who may be very different from them, but after living with each other for a while, going to class together, playing sports together, joining clubs together, those differences move aside, and they become more like brothers than friends. It’s a beautiful thing.”

“The residential program has helped me become a man for others,” said Eric Cruz, a junior from St. Ignatius Loyola Academy. “I consider my room- mate one of my brothers. I have known him since the first week of freshman year. We have grown together and share the same personalities, interests, and dedication. I am grateful to be part of this loving community.”

Akeem Clark, a junior from Washington Jesuit Academy (WJA), is grateful for Sunday Mass on campus. “Mass helps me continue to connect deeper with God. Being a resident always gives me the opportunity to increase my faith and knowledge in God, taking another step further than what WJA had already done for me.”

“We put our new resident building in the center of campus so that our boarding students are at the center of it all and can interact daily with our day students beyond the class- room,” said Fr. Van Dyke. “Resident students from overseas often spend Thanksgiving with one of our day student families, and during the pandemic, one of our local families took in a resident student for more than a year.”

Residential Dean Joseph Harkins, ’96, and President Fr. James Van Dyke, SJ, pause after a school liturgy for a picture with resident students (from left to right) Qiyuan David Xiong, San Diego, Calif.; Zihao Richard Li, Shanghai, China; Goap Kodi, Woodbridge, Va.; and Changze Zeno Song, Beijing, China.

Fr. David Sauter, SJ, an English literature teacher who has been at Georgetown Prep since 2010 and served there more than 25 years throughout his Jesuit career, said, “I have known students who moved away from a life of privilege, students who devoted their lives to the service of the poor, students who experienced a community of love and support which they would not have experienced had they not attended Georgetown Prep. This has been a place of physical safety for some, a place without fear for others, a stable home environment for still others, and, I hope, a place of respect and security for all.”

While the new building and facility has certainly given the resident program a much-needed facelift and more living space, Harkins notes that the culture and love that permeates the program was there when they all lived in the 100-year-old Boland Hall. “The feeling I get when I see the boys working and playing together, watch a dorm parent helping someone with homework, or see my daughter riding her scooter down the hall and being treated like a little sister by the boys … that great spirit of family lives strong.”