With a new marching band,
new radio broadcasting program, new lights on the field,
and a new principal, Saint John Paul the Great Catholic High
School in Dumfries, heads into its ninth year exhibiting the
same energy and optimism that has come to define the school.
New at the helm is
Dominican Sister Mary Veronica Keller, who replaces
founding principal, Dominican
Sister Mary Jordan Hoover. Sister Mary Veronica has
strong roots in Virginia and the Arlington Diocese, having
been a parishioner at St. Bernadette Church in Springfield, a
graduate of James Madison University in Harrisonburg, and a
teacher at Potomac High School in Dumfries, prior to joining
the Congregation of St. Cecilia in Nashville in 1993.
"It's great to be back in Virginia, and a blessing to be
selected to serve at John Paul the Great. I feel like I won
the lottery," said Sister Mary Veronica during her first
introduction to the school community in May at the
celebration launching the new radio station and stadium
lights. Months later, Sister Mary Veronica has relocated from
Rhode Island, spent a few transitional weeks at school with
Sister Mary Jordan, took some time for retreat with her
community in Nashville, and hit the ground running preparing
for the new school year.
Among the new projects Sister Mary Veronica and the school
community are most excited about are the new radio
broadcasting class and the formation of a marching band.
In August, music director Kelly Kingett hosted a summer band
camp focused exclusively on marching band. "The idea has been
with us for a while, and our band has been making appearances
at games for a number of years, but now we are taking it to a
whole new level by adding a marching show," said Kingett.
"Will we look like Ohio State during our first game? Probably
not, but we have a really talented group of musicians who are
working hard and having fun."
Senior Cameron Shideler serves as drum major and will lead
the band of approximately 75 students. "Cameron is doing a
great job. He really inspires all the students," said
The theme of the show this year is "Heroes through Time," and
includes music from Ghostbusters and The Avengers. The
Marching Wolves will be divided in two groups so that each
band member only needs to play for two home games plus
homecoming. By doing that, all home games will have a portion
of the band in attendance, and homecoming will feature the
whole band. "My guess," said Kingett, "is that once the band
plays for the first home game, they will want to play for
them all. It's just too much fun."
Kingett plans to add a color guard next year, and hopes
funding will become available for the purchase of official
marching band uniforms. Until then, their look will be more
pep band than traditional band. "Formal marching band
uniforms can cost upwards of $1,000 per student. It will take
us some time to work up to that," said Kingett, "but with our
talent and enthusiasm, I know we'll look great on the field
under the new lights."
Band members and football players won't be the only students
on the field if things go as planned. Students taking the new
"Introduction to Broadcasting" class will be encouraged to
report on happenings around the school and even call games,
once basic skills and best practices have been established.
"The course will be theory and hands-on," said new faculty
hire, Ashley Ackerman, "meaning students will learn about the
history of radio, how radio works, as well as several
projects where they will get to practice a variety of
broadcasting formats including: news, sports and talk radio."
Eventually, quality student-produced content will be aired on
WJPN 106.3FM, Home of the John Paul Nation, and live
broadcasts are expected.
For now, WJPN is simulcasting EWTN Radio 24 hours a day. The
mission of the broadcasting initiative is rooted in the
desire to share the good news of Christ.
"In class we will definitely talk about radio as a tool for
evangelization," said Ackerman. "We can look to Venerable
Fulton J. Sheen and Mother Angelica as prime examples of
modern day evangelists who had an impact on people's lives by
sharing Christ over the air waves."
Inspiration also is drawn from the school's namesake, St.
John Paul the Great, and from St. Dominic, founder of the
Order of Preachers and patron of the Dominican Sisters.
The 750 students at the growing school can march forward with
confidence. "With spiritual superstars watching out for us,
and the dedicated efforts of our faculty and staff, there is
every reason to believe that our ninth year will be the best
yet," said Sister Mary Veronica.