In the days leading up to his performance in the spring musical Oliver!, 8th grader Brendan Jolley remembers a moment of doubt. Sure, he had earned the lead role as Oliver. But, did he really think he could share a stage with a cast of high school students, some of whom with twice as much theater experience as him?
Fortunately for Brendan, the friends he met on the set, sophomores Sean Faye and Aidan Healey, quickly erased any last shred of doubt.
“After each rehearsal and practice, they reminded me how great of a job that I do,” said Brendan.
“Sometimes you just need that little nudge of support to remind yourself that you can do this.”
That April, Brendan stole the show. On both nights, the audience greeted him with a standing ovation at the end of each performance. The experience did more than just affirm, however. It validated his decision to attend CM just a few years earlier.
“If I had to do it all over again, I’d choose CM every single time,” he said.
“The friendships that I’ve made here, with high school kids and kids in my grade, have been unlike any other. I’ve become really close friends with all of my classmates.”
Of course, Brendan knows that his confidence didn’t come overnight. He credits his teachers at CM for identifying his talents and encouraging him to pursue his interests. Without them, he never would have tried out for the theater productions at CM in the first place. To Brendan, the teachers’ lessons extend beyond the final bell.
“I wasn’t going to do the play, but then certain teachers encouraged me to do it and told me that I’d be good at it,” Brendan said.
“I went to try out and ended up getting a major role in it.”
According to him, he needed confidence to take that risk and put himself out there. And, he said, no class does a better job of building this confidence than CM’s Critical Making course. The only known course of its kind in Massachusetts, Critical Making introduces every middle school student with a project-based, active learning environment.
Beginning in the 7th grade, the course collaborates with the non-profit education innovator, EXPLO. EXPLO designs a curriculum made to invite students out of their comfort zone and into collaborative discussion with fellow classmates. Together, the students apply trial-and-error methodology to solve modern, real-life problems.
“It’s fun because it’s a nice break from sitting and listening. You get to use your hands and solve problems, which I think is fun,” said Brendan.
“When you’re told to make something, and then given the materials to try and do it on your own, you feel proud of yourself to accomplish the goal while working with others. Together, we’re constantly tweaking ideas until we come up with a final idea.”
The Critical Making courses, mandatory for every CM student, teaches students how to record exact measurements and put scientific inquiry into practice. Every year, students must design and build their own boats after reading the book The Old Man and the Sea and learning about St. Paul’s voyage across the Mediterranean.
But, the exercise doesn’t end there. After all, what good is building a boat if the boat doesn’t work? Before the school year ends, each student steps into their self-made vessel and sails it along the Charles River.
With each project, Brendan built a larger sense of accomplishment. With this, no task felt too tall for him. Outside of theater, he began pursuing other areas of interest. He explored the Art club and stayed involved with the middle school speech and debate team. On top of that, he also joined the middle school basketball, baseball, and cross country teams.
The countless opportunities at the school inspire confidence. But they also encourage him to reflect on who he wants to leave CM as.
“My mom always tells me to find the best version of myself that I can be and to be that version,” said Brendan.
“It’s echoed at CM in Dr. Folan and all the teachers. They’re always telling you to be the best version of you that you can be. So, I just want to be the best version of me that I can be. At CM, I think I’m getting closer to that version every day.”
Catholic Memorial, the Christian Brothers School of Boston, prepares boys for college, manhood and a world full of unknown challenges, ambiguity and complex problems and the importance of relationships.