The underlying philosophy at Holy Ghost Preparatory School has always been about the importance of service, to fellow students and the school community, and to the world at large.
Founded in 1897 by Fr. John Tuohill Murphy C.S.Sp,
the institution was originally a combination prep school and junior-college seminary.
In 1959, the school opened its doors to non-seminarians. The seminary was discontinued eight years later and Holy Ghost Prep was created in 1968.
While the structure of the institution has evolved over time, Ryan Abramson, the admissions director and a Holy Ghost Prep graduate himself, emphasizes that its underlying philosophy remains unchanged.
“The school was founded by the Spiritans,” he said, “which is essentially a missionary order. So, most of the people that join the religious order than runs Holy Ghost Prep end up leaving the U.S. and working in missions all over the planet that are in some of the poorest communities that you can go to.
“What we try to do here is try to put students in a situation where they have they have the ability to be successful but then to understand that their success is measured by the ability to help others, as opposed to whatever individual success they might have.
“So, whether it’s community service or the way they reach out and help their classmates, whether it’s how they participate in the community, the idea is that your greatness or your successes are always measured by your ability to lift other people up to that same level.”
The student body at Holy Ghost Prep numbers approximately 450 in grades 9-12. About 60 percent of the students come from Catholic grade schools, the other 40 percent from public schools throughout the area.
“We’re looking for students that are engaged,” Abramson says, “students that are focused. But primarily, students that are going to be interested in participating in an environment where the school becomes their life, where you challenge yourself more than you thought you would, students that willing to work really hard in school, more than maybe they ever have before, with the idea that the focus at the end of the day is to prepare them to have the skills to be successful in college and the skills to be successful after college.”
The school day is structured with those goals in mind.
“We have an enormous amount of free time,” Abramson said. “Our students are given tons and tons of opportunities to be in a situation where they have to make good decisions.
“And so, during a typical school day, a student might not have class for an hour, and hour and 20 minutes where he has to make decisions about how he’s going to use the time, whether it’s preparing for a test, whether its meeting with a teacher for extra help, whether it’s getting ahead because he plays a sport or is involved in an after-school activity and he’s going to miss time at home and so he gets those things done during the school day. But the idea is to learn those time management schools and the responsibility of being able to manage your time on your own, rather than have somebody that always tells you what to do.”
Abramson says that new students develop those skills in part from emulating the upperclassmen. He points out that the size of the student body encourages relationships between students of all grade levels.
“Those relationships that those freshmen have with seniors are not on the surface,” he said. “Those freshmen know those seniors and those seniors know those freshmen. They know their names, they know something about them. They know where they went to grade school, they know where they went to middle school, what sport they play, what activity they’ve been a part of, so that behavior is not being seen in a generic sense, but that behavior is being seen through a personal relationship. And so, that freshman acts a certain way because he sees a senior who he knows doing that. So, he wants to be like that individual as opposed just some kind of thing that you read on a piece of paper, or see in a really generic sense.”
In keeping with the school’s founding mission, students must fulfill a service requirement each year, 10 hours per academic year for underclassmen, 20 hours for upperclassmen.
“Again, it’s the idea of lifting others up,” Abramson said. “And so, we have students that do projects. We have students that go to the Dominican Republic, that will spend three weeks in Tanzania and East Africa. We have students that will do local things. We had a whole group of students that traveled Martin Luther King Day weekend for service projects at the Romero Center in Camden and in Philadelphia at St. John’s Hospice so we have students that do lots of different kinds of service with that idea; that service needs to be hands on for people in need.
There are lots of ways to do service where you’re making things at home and they’re certainly wonderful activities, but what we want is to see our students do hand-on (service) with people that are in need. So, that, again, you can lift people up.”
Students are encouraged to share their accounts of their community service experiences with their peers. “The experience of service for a student is not simply about what he learns,” Abramson said, “but what he is able to be taught by people that can be very different from him.
“We have a lot of students that have done really remarkable things with their community service. And more importantly, they come back and they share those experiences with their classmates, so that they can also benefit from the things that they learned.”
Like the other schools in the Atlantic Prep Athletic Conference, Holy Ghost Prep is committed to maintaining an athletic program that embraces the philosophy of the institution.
Abramson says it’s important to retain coaches that embrace that philosophy. “I think what’s amazing to me about the hiring of coaches is these coaches find you,” he said. “Just as much as you want to find those personalities, there are great, great individuals out there that want that as well.
“Just like a student that wants to come to Holy Ghost there are coaches that want to be in an environment that embraces all of those values as well.”
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