Families in this region are blessed with plenty of options when it comes to choosing a high school for their children, from the highly regarded public school system in the Garden State to the private institutions that combine a rich history with the individualized attention that some students require. But even in that crowded landscape, St. Augustine Preparatory School—known to many as simply The Prep—manages to stand out for a number of reasons, namely its renowned academic and athletic programs and the integrity it helps build in the young men who pass through its doors.
In fact, JC Valore often meets with prospective students in his role as Director of Admissions, and speaking about the countless positive qualities the school possesses is one of his favorite parts of the job.
“The Prep is unique in the sense that we have no educational peers in South Jersey,” he says. “As the only private all-boys Catholic school, as well as the only Augustinian secondary school in the state, we have a lot to offer families. If you pair that with a longstanding tradition of academic and athletic excellence, as well as regular community service, strong character development and faith formation programs, you can get a sense of the recipe for our success—one that is often replicated, but never duplicated.”
One of the best aspects of The Prep is that its commitment to educating young students is not confined to the regular academic year. For decades, the school has offered a variety of enrichment and athletic programs for kids as young as 5 all the way up to high school.
These opportunities for experiential learning fall in line with the school’s namesake.
“St. Augustine himself believed that learning should not be confined to the classroom,” Valore says. “Instead, he believed that we learn in many ways. When you read Augustine, he was often outdoors with his own students and spoke openly about his love of sports as well. Therefore, in that same spirit, The Prep opens up our campus to summer programs and camps, which seek to further that Augustinian spirit of discovery and pursuit of knowledge. Failing to offer such programs would be inconsistent with our mission.”
The summer programs are held in various weeks throughout July and August and almost all of them include lunch provided by Chef Vinnie Berti and the St. Augustine Dining Services team, much to the delight of the campers.
Several of those programs are geared specifically to future or current students at The Prep. Eighth Grade Immersion gives rising eighth graders who plan on attending St. Augustine a head start on what it means to be a Hermit Brother and gives them an idea of what daily life is like on campus, a year before they arrive. The Freshman Study Skills and Writing program and the Sophomore Survival Skills Camp give students in those grades the tools to thrive in a rigorous academic setting.
“These programs are designed to help our young men gain a solid foundation for the upcoming school year while building community and camaraderie between classmates and faculty,” Valore says, adding that all three are traditionally well attended.
Another academic program is STEM: An eye on Algebra, which is offered to boys and girls entering sixth through eighth grades and promises technology-rich experiences rooted in math and science. Then there’s the brand-new SAT Boot Camp, open to boys and girls entering ninth through 11th grades, which aims to improve students’ test-taking ability on both the verbal and math portions of the SAT while increasing their confidence levels.
“The ability to host academic and innovative programs in a fun, relaxed environment has been a source of pride in our community since the inception of our summer programs decades ago,” Valore says. “Most all families who explore these camps have values that align with the mission of St. Augustine Prep and appreciate the unique camp experience that we are able to deliver with excellent staff and state-of-the-art facilities.”
Not all of the programs are geared toward academics. Take the Model Rocket Camp, for example, which gives boys and girls entering eighth through 10th grades the chance to construct and safely launch their own rocket.
“Last year was our first year hosting the Model Rocket Camp and it was a great success,” Valore says. “It’s been a longtime passion for Mr. [Carmen] Scaffidi, our program director, and he does an amazing job of introducing students to the exciting world of model rocketry. Not only do campers design, create and fly their own rockets, but the camp serves as a source of inspiration for children who aspire to become future scientists and engineers.”
Anyone who follows high school sports in this area knows that St. Augustine has become one of New Jersey’s elite athletic programs, producing annual contenders for conference, sectional and state champions in a number of sports. Many of the school’s coaches guide the stars of tomorrow in summer camp, stressing the fundamentals while also creating a love for the game.
Athletic camps include baseball, basketball, lacrosse, soccer, wrestling and rowing, and usually have sessions for both elementary and high school students.
“No man becomes a man by himself,” Valore says. “We firmly believe that our coaches help exemplify the best in what a mentor should be, and the life lessons and transferable skills they help to impart to their players translate into the athletic successes we have become known for. Better men make for better athletes and that is how we approach things here. A ‘win’ for us isn’t just about the scoreboard—it is about life.”
Some of the legendary coaches leading camps include Paul Rodio—who this past season became only the second basketball coach in state history with 1,000 career wins—and Mike Bylone, who has turned the Hermits baseball team into a powerhouse.
“Over the years, our athletic directors have done a phenomenal job of hiring strong coaches who know the school’s mission,” Valore says. “Coaches Rodio and Bylone, both Hermit alums, are two exceptional examples of leaders who succeed in connecting with their players at the highest levels both on and off the playing surface. The standard that has been established in our athletic department has paved the way for an elite camp experience delivered by some of the best coaches in the country.”
Valore can be counted in that group as well. St. Augustine’s highly successful lacrosse coach enjoys connecting with campers between second and ninth grades, many of whom end up on his roster.
“It’s an amazing opportunity to be able to work with so many young men from all eight counties in South Jersey (and beyond),” he says. “Our camp is designed to teach the game in a fast, fun and inclusive way. A byproduct of the camp’s success is seeing many of our attendees explore St. Augustine Prep and the Hermits lacrosse program. Currently, I have the privilege of coaching over 45 past campers, many of whom attended camp as early as fourth grade. For our players, the camp experience sets the foundation for strong, lasting relationships with their future teammates and our coaching staff.”
The story of the lacrosse players is a common one. Over the past decade, seven out of 10 students who have enrolled in St. Augustine were previous attendees of a least one on-campus summer program, where they got a taste of what the school has to offer and became convinced that they wanted to be a part of it. Registration is now open for those who want the same experience and the chance to build lasting friendships in a fun, educational environment this summer.
St. Augustine Prep
611 Cedar Ave. | Richland
Published (and copyrighted) in Suburban Family Magazine, Volume 13, Issue 10.
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