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Photo of 7th graders in class, some with their hands raised
David Jacobson

We recently asked a group of Saint Thomas Academy parents to email us a list of what they love about the school. We received many answers on a wide variety of topics. A few piqued our interest enough to ask for elaboration.

We asked Tony Juarez – father of Alex ’10, Thomas ’20, and Max ’22 – to elaborate on this written response: “The fact that the school is a good mix of families from all walks of life – rich and poor, and everything in between. I think the percentages of those people are much closer to society as a whole, and more so than a lot of public schools.”

Tony recalled some of his decision-making process around the time Thomas was ready for middle school, but Tony’s lawncare business had turned for the worse. “I remember saying to Alex, ‘I gotta ask you something, and you gotta be blunt with me, did you ever feel like less because we weren’t rich like the other families?’ Because I would pick him up in my truck, pulling my trailer, full of lawn equipment, dirty and dusty. And Alex said, ‘No, I don’t think guys are like that.’ ”

Tony even recalls asking Thor Raarup to help him tie his tie for a job interview. “Thor said, ‘Absolutely.’ I know that he makes more than me, but never once did I ever feel slighted. I meet a lot of other guys there, and our faith, or our traditional principles around family and morals and values, does bind us.

“It’s a deliberate institution. You have to want to go there. People think, ‘Well any rich kid can go to Saint Thomas Academy, and I say, ‘Yeah, the rich kid’s dad can make a down payment, but the kid has to pay the rent every week.’ If he can’t handle keeping his grades up, he’s not gonna last.”

Tony speaks passionately about the school welcoming many tradesmen’s children, providing them financial aid, and ensuring that diversity is a strength, rather than a force of divisiveness. “When you have the boys’ uniforms, all the way down to the shoes and the belts, because everything is so regulated, there’s really not a whole lot that you can show off with. If that’s your game, to do some strutting or something, there’s really not a whole lot you can do. (Socio-economic disparity) is really downplayed.”

We asked Brittany Lloyd, mother of Evan ’23 and Ian ’25, to speak further on this written answer:

“The vast variety of academic and extra-curricular options – there really is something for everyone!”

Brittany added in conversation that the extracurriculars were “a concern of mine, coming in, because of the sports emphasis in the reputation that Saint Thomas has, and the jock culture. My kids are not rockstar athletes, and I need them to be smart and well-rounded. I have been so happy with how supportive Saint Thomas has been.”

In addition to appreciating how the Academy honors academic success, Brittany also hails the non-traditional extracurriculars, such as the new middle-school Sphero computer programming club, and the trap shooting team, on which both Evan and Ian compete. “I love having options beyond football, hockey, and basketball. I like the brain-challenge extracurriculars. My boys are driving that bus in our house, and the empowerment it has given them has been great. I love the way the school communicates these options to the boys directly. They’re teaching the boys to step up and take ownership.”

And Kelly Carver – mother of Max ’20 (who entered the Academy in the middle of his sophomore year), Jackson ’22, and Hunter ’24 – expanded on her answer about the Academy’s small class sizes. “Max has some learning challenges, but within his first week there, he was coming home and saying, ‘Mom, these teachers care so much.’ At the end of the semester, he had his highest-ever GPA. He felt so good about himself. He was succeeding in a way he hadn’t succeeded before.”

Key to that is the Academy grouping students of varying abilities in the same classrooms, Kelly said. “The classrooms have kids who are accelerated and very bright, where learning comes easy to them, to kids that are like Max, who are more challenged in the classroom. He feels like he’s part of something. He tells me, ‘Mom, people are asking me questions.’ It’s pushing Max to his potential to learn better and to learn more.”

On the flipside, Hunter and Jackson, who learn more easily, sometimes find themselves in leadership positions, discerning which of their classmates may need help, and then offering it. “The teachers put them into small groups, and you never know who you’re going to be next to. It may be someone on a different level, and you have to figure that out. It’s important for Hunter and Jackson to learn patience, to understand that sometimes you’re going to have to explain things, but you still need to work together. Those are life-long lessons that we all need as adults, too, in our work environment. The small class sizes make it more intimate, and the kids do know each other and hold each other accountable. That’s an important lesson they’re learning for future success.”

Do you love some things about Saint Thomas Academy that are not mentioned here? Let us know!