Four core pillars — Community, Student Leadership, Counseling and Experiential Education — have defined and distinguished a St. Benedict’s Prep education for nearly 50 years. The pillars are deeply ingrained into the life of the School. They ground us during times of crisis, like COVID-19, and provide the foundation for students to grow into loving, capable, resilient young people.
Convo is the most important thing we do every daybecause it’s the basis for building community. Convocation, the daily morning meeting run by student-leaders, is when kids, faculty and staff gather to sing, pray, and truly be present to one another. We affirm the beliefs that guide our relationships: “Whatever hurts my brother, hurts me,” “Whatever hurts my sister, hurts me,” “Give up what you want for what we need,” and “You can be any good thing you want to be in life.”
Students learn quickly they are part of something much bigger than themselves. You can see it on ourlive stream Convo for yourself. The connectedness among kids, adults, monks and alumni transcends time, distance, ethnicity and faith. We all belong to the St. Benedict’s community.
Students step up when adults step back. That’s the credo we live at The Hive. Students run attendance and Morning Convocation. They are responsible for the daily schedule, deal with issues of discipline, oversee the five-day Freshman Overnight to ensure first years cross the finish line together, serve as commanders on The Trail and much, much more. Student-leaders earn the responsibility of the positions they are entrusted with through the structure of Groups developed by generations of Gray Bees.
The Group System Groups are the basis for learning, building community, and healthy competition. There are 18 Groups in the Boys Prep Division (each group is named for a St. Benedict’s alum or prominent figure in our history), six Groups in the Girls Prep Division and five Groups in the Middle Division. Students remain in the same Group where together, they earn achievements, overcome challenges and look out for one another.
Within each Group there are opportunities for leadership. Each Prep Division Group elects a Group Leader (who is a senior) and two Assistant Group Leaders. The Assistant Group Leader for Freshman counsels first-year students and works closely with the Freshman Leader. The senior team (Senior Group Leader, Section Leaders, Freshman Leader, Transfer Leader, Community Standards Leader and other roles) for the Boys and Girls Prep Divisions assume ultimate leadership for the School.
U.S. Naval Academy Partnership
U.S. Naval Academy Midshipmen intern at St. Benedict’s during the months of May and August to: 1) work directly with student-leaders on effective leadership skills, and 2) hone their own leadership capabilities. The unique partnership was formed in 2007 and several Gray Bees have even gone on to attend U.S.N.A.
Extended Leadership Training
With the assistance of Victory Road Leadership Development Group, St. Benedict's began an extended program of leadership training that builds upon the skills and self-discovery of the Overnight and Trail. The programs are intentionally designed for UDIs (sophomores), UDIIs (juniors) and rising seniors in preparation for the responsibility and decision-making to run the day-to-day operation of the School. These trainings or evolutions take place at 520 MLK Boulevard and off-site on the Munsee Property owned by Newark Abbey.
“At St. Benedict’s in Newark, mental health is taken as seriously as math, science and reading,” declared a recent Jersey’s Best article. The Steven M. Grossman Counseling Center is a big reason why. St. Benedict’s began a formal counseling program in 1997 with the understanding that students can’t progress or excel if they are struggling emotionally or suffering trauma.
The Grossman Counseling Center is on the vanguard. It is located on the Property, staffed by school psychologists and counselors, and equipped to be responsive to issues kids experience, such as depression, anger management, absent parents, self-harming behaviors and substance abuse. The Grossman Center provides individual and/or group therapy to 40% of students in the Middle and Prep Divisions.
“Benedict’s teaches you to do hard things” is a statement you hear a lot from Gray Bee graduates. We learn by doing and our program of Experiential Education is embedded into the curriculum. Many of our rite-of-passage experiences also work to foster our pillars of Community and Leadership.
Weeklong orientation experience that commences with Summer Phase, wherein all freshmen learn, and buy-in to the Benedict’s ethos. Students attend school, learn Benedict’s songs and history, complete orientation challenges, and sleep each night on the gym floor. The success of the group depends on each member of the team.
The bookend to freshman year is The Backpacking Project, the 55-mile, five-day hike on the Appalachian Trail in May. A graduation requirement, it teaches students that when they stay together and work through difficulty, they can persist and be successful. Once students complete The Backpacking Project, they’ve officially earned their place in the community as well as the right to wear the iconic Black hoodie.
The entire month of May is devoted to experiential learning in the Middle and Prep Divisions. Students take one intensive, hands-on course that may include: civic action, entrepreneurship, art & nature, Stage Rage, fine home tuning and more. Freshman spend Spring Phase preparing and completing The Backpacking Project.