One day every month, the students at Danvers’ St. John’s Prep (SJP), an inclusive Catholic school for young men in grades six through 12, are able to “dress down” out of their usual dress code for a suggested donation of $5 (or more) to a pre-selected charity. This is a long-standing tradition administered by the Student Council. So many groups on the North Shore have built strong relationships with SJP because of this, like the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Salem or Care Dimensions, a hospice in Danvers. Through opportunities like these to give back to their community, the students learn how impactful the act of giving can truly be, and how important it is to the people they care about.  

Ed Hardiman, Ph.D., head of school at SJP, said, “Any member of the community has the opportunity to ask Student Council if it’s possible to redirect some of the funds or to consider a new beneficiary for dress-down day.” That’s how, on the week of Friday, Oct. 20, SJP students donated to CJP’s Israel Emergency Fund. “We wanted to support the Jewish community at St. John’s; we have a fairly substantial population of Jewish students, and we wanted to model what we felt people should do,” said Hardiman.

So, when Hardiman, along with principal/associate head of school Keith Crowley, Ph.D., and assistant principal Stacy Banos, went to the Student Council to ask for CJP to be listed, they immediately said yes. “We knew that it was important to get a donation out quickly. And we wanted to make sure it was benefiting the people who were directly impacted by the terrorist attacks,” said Hardiman. Everyone was ready to take action and entrust CJP with their donations, he said: “The Student Council was very pleased to incorporate CJP as part of the last dress-down day.”

SJP students have consistently been taught “the concept of servant leadership, where you influence any situation you encounter for the good of others,” and Hardiman felt this was “an example of that in action on a smaller scale. We think it’s really important that our community support those in need.”

In fact, Hardiman said that the day before, the Jewish Student Union and Campus Ministry “put together an interfaith prayer service for peace. Our chapel holds 250 people, and it was standing-room only.” This community wanted to make a difference in whatever way they could, on whatever level they could. “The fact that we were doing something in a positive way to benefit those who were directly affected by the attacks was very well received.” And it won’t quickly be forgotten—not by the people they helped, nor by the people who raised their hands to help. Their $5 went further than anyone thought possible.