Blog Application

JP Blog Application

First, a few words about the blog itself:

It was established in January 2015, as a way for the extraordinary voices of JP to be heard outside of our school’s walls.  Our school has many talented writers and thinkers, and our blog is their stage. We were blogless last school year, but Miss Foster has volunteered to resurrect this project! 

What is our blog about? Our school, our world, and our place in eternity. We are always looking for new topics that will interest and benefit our readers.  To see what topics we’ve covered so far, take a look at past articles.  

GOALS for the blog: 

• Regularly updated with posts written by students, and sometimes by alum, teachers, and parents

• Variety: Posts can be light-hearted, fun, intellectual, serious, formal, etc., depending on the topic.

Posts are never negative in relation to things that we love and protect, like our school, the Church, or specific people.

How a blog is different from a newspaper: 

• Newspapers articles are intended to be primarily about news, objectively recounting events. The author themselves should be, in a sense, invisible.

• Bloggers are able to show their personality. Blog readers look forward to seeing a true person peek through the writing. Posts should still be well-organized and contain proper grammar and spelling, but can be more casual in tone than newspaper articles.

Things to Know:

Each member will contribute an article every 6 weeks, about an approved topic of their choice.

Blog posts will be just 4-7 paragraphs on average. The target audience of the JP blog includes:

1. Current parents and families

2. Students

3. Kids who are considering JP and their families, as well as potential future teachers and coaches


Copy and paste the 10 questions below into a Word document or email, and fill in your answers. Make sure not to delete the questions themselves. Submit answers to Miss Foster via email.

Remember: One main goal of this application is to let us see your writing, so please write thorough answers for each question.

* Your Name and Grade: 

1. Of the articles currently posted on our blog, which do you find most appealing?

2. What do you find interesting about that article?

3. Why do you want to write for the blog?

4. Consider audience one: Families. What topics would they be interested in?

5. Consider audience two: Students. What topics do you think would make students want to read the blog?

6. Consider audience three: Potential future students and families. What do you think they would like to see on the blog?

7. If you have some favorite blogs, what are they about and what are they called?

8. What are three blog topics that you would be interested in writing about? 

9. Is there anything else we should know about why you would make a great blog team member?

10. Write a sample blog post of only 250 words or less:

  • Pick any topic to write a short post about. It could be about the history of French desserts, the Hubble telescope, or penguins. It should be something that you are interested in, and that you think others will be as well.
  • Include a title.
  • The ability to write concisely is an important skill, so spend some time getting rid of unnecessary words and leaving only the best.

Submit application to Miss Foster via email when you are finished. Good luck!

Posted in Assortment

The Hidden Life of a Cell

Written by Paul Fritschner, Class of 2015

It takes 120,000,000,000,000 (120 trillion) cells to make a human.

cell pull quote-05That’s a whole lot of cells. However, even more mind-blowing is the fact that inside each of these microscopic pieces of matter, there is a bustling city with thousands of moving parts. Think about that: within each tiny cell are even smaller pieces. And all of these parts know how to work together.  As an astoundingly well-calibrated machine, they make up the larger being that is a human. Each tiny aspect works with the rest as one gigantic unit.

ADN_animationThere are two parts of this which intrigue me personally. First, the amount of study and research it takes to discover and understand what is hidden in our bodies. Studying human biology is the incredible process of our cells working together, to learn how our cells work together.

Second, the fact that this was all created and interwoven into perfection. Each individual cell is more highly programmed than any computer on earth. And though we may have only yet scratched the surface, we have discovered quite a vast amount already.

The website and video clips below, done by the BBC, takes an in-depth look at the hidden universe inside each one of us.

The Hidden Life of a Cell:

The video segment  on the Mitochondria is especially fascinating. To view it, just follow this link and clink on “ATP video” on the lower right:

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Mr. Moran’s Maple Masterpiece

By: Ben Nash, Class of 2015

When most people think of maple syrup (sir-up, not seer-up), they don’t think of Virginia as one of its main producers. But in the Science Department, Mr. Mark Moran and his Environmental Science classes are breaking the mold, thanks to inspiration from sophomore Joseph Costello. One day, Joe asked Mr. Moran whether he had ever made maple syrup from scratch. He hadn’t – yet.  But after consulting with JP’s Chef Courtney, he began to experiment with maple tree tapping.

Spile (1)

A spile is inserted into the tree trunk of sugar maples to collect sap. The sap drains out through the spile over a period of hours or days.

First, at his own home, Mr. Moran stuck a spile, a spigot-like instrument designed to collect tree sap, into a sugar maple tree. Within 24 hours he had collected over a gallon from just one tree.

After his own successful attempt, Mr. Moran asked his students to bring in empty milk and juice jugs to collect the sap from trees behind the school.  With the help of Mr. Moran and Mr. Czekaj, the students identified several strong maple trees, tapped them, and placed a jug underneath each. Then, nature began to do its part.

Sap is made when the roots of a tree collect water from the ground. When a sugar maple is tapped, this collected water flows out through the spile. This water and sap combination is full of sucrose and simple sugars. At first, the sap that is collected is clear and looks more like water than syrup.  To get the consistency and color of syrup, it is boiled down to remove the water and enhance the sweet flavor.


Sap from a maple tree looks a lot like water, until it is boiled down to produce the rich bronze color and consistency of maple syrup – perfect for pouring on waffles and pancakes.

It takes approximately 40 gallons of sap to boil down and become just one single gallon of maple syrup. That one gallon of syrup can cost over $50! At JP, the science classes aren’t selling their syrup, but they are going to be holding a pancake-making contest to be judged by a few lucky teachers.

Just like with chocolate, there are different types of maple syrup with variances in flavor. The darker the syrup is, the stronger its flavor. The State of Vermont distinguishes four maple syrup grades, all made by the same process.  In order from lightest to darkest, they are Fancy, Grade A Medium Amber, Grade A Dark Amber, and Grade B.  With the help of Chef Courtney, Mr. Moran boiled down the seven gallons they got from their taps, and ended up with Grade B maple syrup – the darkest and most flavorful grade.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMr. Moran’s science classes got to see for themselves how creative God was when He hid a delicious treat in the most unlikely of places – the trunks of maple trees. Mr. Moran plans to continue with this project on an annual basis, so get your pancake recipes ready!

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JP: A Parent’s Perspective

By Mr. Richard Cooper, John Paul Parent
(Edited from remarks delivered at Fall 2014 Open House to prospective families.)

DSC_0580When the time came to look at high schools, my wife and I simply thought we’d follow the track of so many other Northern Virginia families.  Our daughter would go to one of the Catholic schools that were close to our home.  That would be an easy option for us to pursue.  While we had heard some good things about this new Catholic school that had recently opened, my wife and I really didn’t give it much thought.

However, our daughter Alexandra had a different idea.  One fall night at dinner, Alexandra shared that a group of JP students had come to speak to the 8th graders in her class at St. Mary’s. She explained that JP had a state-of-the-art building, a high caliber faculty, a unique Bioethics Curriculum, and this thing called a “House System.”

Not quite sure what she was talking about, I asked about the House System.  “Is this like the Harry Potter thing with the Slytherin and Gryffindor groups competing with each other?”  I was quickly corrected by her with a fairly firm, “No Dad.  They’re named after saints and they compete with each other in academics, sports and other contests.  It sounds pretty cool and I want to learn more.”

JPGreat_2012-83Alexandra has always been a fairly easy-going child, but we could see that there was something that really intrigued her about this school.  However, my wife and I were convinced that, regardless of the school’s bioethics program, stellar faculty, or very unique house system, the school was out of the range of possibility for us. How on earth were we going to get her from our home near Mount Vernon to Dumfries, and get to work ourselves, let alone have her participate in all of the activities and events that make high school years fun and memorable?

My wife and I resolved that we needed to convince her that this school wasn’t practical for her or for our family.  As we began to discuss this with Alexandra over the next couple of days, she again described that there was something special going on at JP and on the shear edge of begging, she asked about going to the open house.

So three years ago, Alexandra and I climbed into the car and made our way to Dumfries.  Before leaving I remember saying something to my wife: “Don’t worry, honey.  Once Alexandra sees all of these traffic lights, she’ll figure it out that this isn’t practical.”

So away we went.  We drove down to the school, and on the way I started counting traffic lights.  After losing count, I parked the car and walked in with her.

From the moment we stepped foot inside we were met by smiling and positively enthusiastic students, parents and faculty members.  With my hands firmly in my pockets, trying to hold fast to the position that my wife and I had staked for ourselves, my daughter and I walked into the presentation in the auditorium.

quote 1We weren’t there very long before we saw a couple of people that we knew from our home parish.  We were soon joined by some of the other friendly JP students, parents and faculty who came over to talk to us.

You can get a pretty good vibe from a place by the people you meet within it.  From the moment we stepped into the school, the people radiated a positive energy that I can only compare to a few other places I’ve been in my life.

It was more than obvious that the people who roamed these halls, classrooms and sporting fields wanted to be a part of JP. The parents were obviously proud of what was going on. The students, who are the life-blood of any learning institution, were brimming with enthusiasm about their school and wanted to share it with whoever they could.

It was obvious something really special was unfolding before me.  I looked at my daughter who was glowing in the environment around her, and noted that she was not alone. I saw a lot of other young men and women in the auditorium that were experiencing the same thing she was.

DSC_3922As I sat taking all of this in, I must admit that I felt like I was the cold-hearted Grinch in the animated classic “The Grinch that Stole Christmas,” where his cold heart of jaded, brutal reality suddenly explodes in size and warmth several times over because I was just flooded with a profound sense of joy that said, “This is the place for her.”

That was not part of the original plan that my wife and I had discussed.  My wife and I had a lot of aspirations for Alexandra and her brothers, but becoming a northern Virginia commuter at the age of 14 was not one of them!

There was the very real issue of distance, but as our time at the open house unfolded it was obvious this place and these people were extraordinarily special.  About 30 minutes into the presentation at JP, I texted my wife a message: “I failed. I’m sold. This is the place for her. I want to go to high school with her.  This place is so cool and oozes energy.”  I think I remember my wife responding back with a message along the lines of, “Are you nuts? How is she going to get there and back?”
_DSC0241Amid thoughts of “I’m going to be in the doghouse” and, “This is not what we discussed,” I broached the question of commuting to Jennifer Cole, the admissions director, at the end of the Open House. She explained that a JP bus comes north to bring students to school (buses head south and west as well) and that the school helps parents network so that car pools and other transportation solutions can be arranged. How could I argue with that?

quote 2Soon enough, Alexandra applied and was admitted, and the JP bus and parent carpool network have been a part of our life ever since. Along that path we’ve met some great parents and students that have made our location work for us. The result of our children’s time here is worth every moment and every sacrifice.

While it may be the newest kid on the block, JP is by far the king of the hill.  Look at the faculty, and see the institutions and degrees that they are employing to educate our kids.  Look again and you will see that many of them bring more than just educational expertise  – they bring years of service within our military service branches, law enforcement, scientific laboratories and other professional pursuits.

Retreat Day - Jan 2013 443This is in addition to the Dominican Sisters that lead this institution.  Astounding in their personal example by the lives they lead, and the work they do in the classrooms, they also offer a full-throated, fist-pumping roaring cheer at any sporting event.

I invite prospective JP parents to take a look at the curriculum and see that it is far from memorizing charts, dates and figures.  It is full of lessons in critical thinking, analysis and writing, so that our kids can develop their own ideas for the future while being able to defend the rights and beliefs they hold dear as disciples of Christ.

One of the highlights of Alexandra’s tenure at JP are the insights she has attained through the Bioethics Curriculum.  Whether they have realized it or not, Alexandra and her JP peers have been gifted with the training to think through and discuss very challenging issues, both capably and confidently.

quote 3When all these collective treasures (and others I don’t have space to mention) are considered together, the winner is John Paul the Great. I can say without reservation the rewards for my daughter and our family have been off the chart. This school is a blessing. At JP you can be inspired and comforted knowing that your child will not only get a great education, grow in their faith and get to know God and His gifts even better, but also have an experience every child deserves in a warm, caring and nurturing environment as they grow into adulthood.

Pope Saint John Paul II lived an extraordinary life based upon certain precepts, all of which can be found at this school dedicated in his name. In the end, that is the ultimate blessing for any child and their family to have.

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Painting…with Light!

Written by Roan McLean, Class of 2017 and the Digital Photography Department

Slow Shutter-Adam- (4)Slow Shutter-Adam- (20)Have you ever seen a picture of a highway at night, where the tail lights of cars look like long red strands of Twizzlers pull-and-peel candy?  The John Paul photography students recently learned how this works! By controlling the speed of their camera, they learned how to draw…with light.

Here’s how:

First, they changed the shutter speed of their cameras to take a long picture, usually around one to four seconds.

Next, another person “drew” with a tiny light, like a phone flashlight, LED, or strand of Christmas lights.  As the camera took the picture, it recorded the movement of the light and created the effect in the photos seen here.

This is the same way photographers take highway pictures of cars at night. The extended shutter speed records the path of each car’s tail lights at it moves down the road, giving the appearance of the long red strands.

It sounds simple, but there are a few common mistakes to avoid.  If the person who is drawing wants to remain invisible, they need to move around a lot so that the camera doesn’t pick up their image.  On the other hand, anyone who wants to remain visible in the picture has to sit perfectly still so that they don’t blur.

After some trial and error, students figured out how to write their names (it has to be done quickly, and backwards!), draw pictures, and even created stop-motion sequences that gave their photos a sense of movement.

If you have a camera with an adjustable shutter speed, you can try this at home, then share your stellar results with the JP blog via our submissions page!

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3D Printing

Written by Katie Yates, Class of 2017

It started as a small headache, but as a week or two went by it grew worse. This wasn’t a normal headache, but a massive pounding pain in her head. She began losing her eyesight, and her ability to drive declined more and more as the days went by.

The unnamed 22-year old from Netherlands was suffering from a rare condition that caused the inside of her skull to grow, squeezing her brain. Chances of living looked slim, until Dr. Bon Verweij gave her hope. With a custom-fitted 3D-printed skull, he performed the first ever surgery to replace a patient’s whole skull. Taking a mammoth 23 hours, the operation was a success. Not only was the woman saved, but she also regained her vision and was able to return to work. This is the power of the 3D printer.

You may wonder: how do these machines operate? Well, imagine holding a tube of toothpaste, and squishing some out onto the sink in a straight line. You do the same thing a couple more times, each row of toothpaste layering on top of the other. This is similar to how 3D printing works. First, an object is either drawn on a computer, or scanned from a real-life object.  It is then sent to the 3D printer, which prints the object, layer by layer. The most common material to print with is plastic, which comes on large spools and looks similar to the plastic strings used for tennis raquets. The plastic is melted as it prints, and then hardens again as it cools.

wolf ring

3D printed wolf rings

The 3D printer was created in 1984, and four years later it became available to the public. Now, 3D printers are being used for all kinds of applications. It is used to build prototypes of spaceships, replicate priceless artifacts, and print toys. Not only that, but the 3D printer is used to replicate body parts. Instead of having a prosthetic leg, a patient would have their very own custom-made 3D printed leg.  The possibilities seem endless.

Being made in God’s image, the human mind is gifted with an incredible thirst for creativity, and the human heart is always looking for a way to improve society.  The 3D printer is a powerful tool that is putting these strong and uniquely human desires within easier reach.

Did You Know?

Nike uses 3D printers to create multi-colored prototypes of shoes. They used to spend thousands of dollars on a prototype and wait weeks for it. Now, the cost is only in the hundreds of dollars, and changes can be made instantly on the computer and then reprinted in the same day.

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John Paul’s Chef Courtney

Written by Grant Tabler, Class of 2016
Chef Courtney: Culinary Mastermind

Chef Courtney: Culinary Mastermind

What does divine providence have to do with cooking? They both involve John Paul’s Chef Courtney. “Chef,” as many people here call him, is the mastermind behind the amazing food at John Paul. With him, we get the best of two worlds: his infectious personality and his culinary expertise. The JP Blog decided to sit down with him and find out where his love for food originated and how he came to work at John Paul.

Chef Courtney was born in Jamaica into a very close-knit family. While his grandmother was babysitting him, she would have him stand on a wooden crate in the kitchen and watch her cook, so she could keep an eye on him. He believes that this is where the seed was planted. Ever since, he has always found comfort in the kitchen.

Upon his parent’s immigration into the United States, he realized that cooking is a universal language. His mom recognized his aptitude and love for food and began to slowly give him more and more cooking responsibility, to the point that he would make his family Sunday meal of brown stewed chicken, rice, and peas every Sunday.

chef courtney“The love of food is not what makes a great chef – it’s a passion for creating it,” explained Chef Courtney. And living in D.C. has given him many opportunities to do exactly that. Chef has been on a long journey that he believes has led him to his current role at JP.

In DC as a teenager, Courtney worked in the pizza business for a while where he learned many useful skills, until he realized that he needed something more. Soon after quitting his pizza job he enrolled in school to follow the profession of his father, a computer technician. But he realized he wasn’t happy there: he missed the beauty and the sense of creation that he felt while cooking.

His family decided to open up a grocery/ deli in 1985. They ran a very successful business and left 21-year-old Courtney in charge of the deli. To say he was a natural is an understatement: he was able to run the deli all by himself, preparing the food and then serving it to a large clientele base. People from around DC would come to the deli to have their famous, authentic Jamaican Jerk Chicken. He soon realized his aptitude for cooking and began to get really creative. He would take ideas off his favorite TV show, “Great Chefs of the World,” and turn them into his own.

Eventually his parents sold the business in 2001, and Chef felt lost. He knew he loved to cook and run the carryout, but he didn’t know what to do. He eventually found jobs working at a few large hotels, serving banquets and cooking in the kitchen. As his coworkers noticed his passion for the culinary arts, they began training him and help him towards his newly found dream – to be an executive chef.

As Chef put it, “it takes a certain individual to be a chef. You must truly love what you do in order to succeed. You can’t be half-hearted in this industry – it is essential to put everything you have into making food, or else it simply won’t be good.” Chef remarked that “when it comes to cooking, I’m like a kid in a candy shop – [I’m] always happy.”

Many in the food industry saw his potential and encouraged him to go to culinary school, but he believed he didn’t need to go to school – he just wanted to work.

One of the hotels began to leave him on the line by himself where he needed to manage three different stations alone, but it eventually became too much and he resigned. After working a few smaller jobs, he saw an opportunity to work for dining services at a government agency. While there he finally realized that to be truly successful, he had to go to culinary school. He enrolled in a local university’s culinary program. Before he had even finished school, the agency asked him to become the executive chef. His dream was already becoming a reality, and his mom and dad couldn’t have been happier.

Chef accepted and stayed there for a few years, then moved on to work at other kitchens around DC, even getting the chance to cook for the President and cater some major events.  After doing this for a while longer, he again realized that he wanted to move on and learn new things. This is when he found his job with Fairfax Food Service, who placed him at JP. Courtney believes that all his previous experiences and jobs have prepared him for this one.

Chef Courtney and his "work family"

Chef Courtney and his “work family”

Looking back, he can see that the road was already leading him here: Early on in his career his aunt suggested that he work in the schools because of his love for kids, and for making healthy and delicious food. At the time, he didn’t want to work for a school, but now at JP he says he couldn’t be happier. He believes that God put him here for a reason and that this is where he is meant to be: he works with extremely good people, he loves the variety of the menus he creates, he enjoys interacting with the kids, and he loves his staff – or as he would say, his work family.

Here, as in every place he has worked, Chef has shown his amazing ability – not only by creating the varied menus, but even by problem-solving. When I was interviewing him there was a shortage of burgers. There were not going to be enough burgers for the next lunch, so Chef sprung into action, figuring out what to do next and how to make sure everyone was fed.  This is the mark of a truly excellent chef.

It has been said that God reveals his goodness through food, giving us a tiny preview of the happiness of Heaven. Anyone who has ever tasted Chef Courtney’s cooking knows this is true.

Like anyone else, at times Chef doubted his own abilities, but he kept his eye on the light above and is now standing in the light of God with a dream job.  He is thrilled for the chance to promote healthy eating at school, and at home with his 2 kids. In fact, his 16 year old daughter wants to be a chef.

Chef believes that food is its own universal language, pointing out that you can reach anyone through it.  JP is thankful to have Chef Courtney, someone who loves this job so much that you can see it on his face whenever you walk by the kitchen – the sheer joy he gets out of making food for people.

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