SCHOOL SPOTLIGHT: Benedictine empowers its students to find their purpose

By Noell Barnidge
Benedictine Military School provides a unique combination of academics, JRTOC, and athletics, in an all-male, faith-based environment. Whether a Cadet is playing a sport in pursuit of a college scholarship, preparing for a military career or vocation, or earning acceptance into a selective university, BC strives to empower its students to find their purpose in life.
“My educational philosophy centers around empowering students,” said Sheila Crossley, Benedictine’s Director of Guidance and College Counseling. “We empower students to self-advocate, develop goals, shape their opinions rooted in fact, understand the importance of good citizenship, and look for ways to make positive contributions to their city and school communities. When these ideals come together over the course of four years, students find it helps them create opportunities for themselves now and in the future.
“Through community service students learn to give back,” Crossley continued. “Through our honor code they learn personal responsibility and understand they individually represent our Benedictine community. Benedictine Military School uses the military model to teach self-discipline and instill values of strong character, integrity, and brotherhood. Inevitably, our graduates tend to carry these core values with them and are essentially ‘the practical outcome of Benedictine Military School’s commitment to develop character and leadership.’ Character and service are integral components of our school, and each student will be a graduate of this code and therefore a product of this training. So many people pour into each student, which empowers students to try new things and create those opportunities.”
Benedictine Military School specializes in developing boys into men and has successfully done so for 120 years. With an enrollment of more than 400, more young men choose to attend Benedictine than any other private high school in the Coastal Empire. Benedictine educates young men to be outstanding leaders who live the values of character, spirituality, purpose, and brotherhood.
BC instills a faith-based education built upon the Benedictine principles of prayer, work, and hospitality. There are many opportunities to grow spiritually, regardless of faith, at Benedictine through campus ministry, daily prayer, and the celebration of the Mass on feast days and solemnities. Our faith in Jesus Christ is at the center of all we do at Benedictine. He drives our mission. He sets our standards. He is why we exist.
“At Benedictine Military School, we challenge students to pursue excellence in all aspects of life,” said Deacon Kevin Knight, Benedictine’s Theology Department Chair and advisor to BC’s freshmen and sophomores. “Our society often focuses on individual accomplishments and college aspirations. While these aspects are covered at BC, we also embrace those who want to better the world by serving others. While our college acceptance rate speaks for itself, we often fail to recognize those young men who serve their country, consider priesthood, and begin their own businesses.”
Benedictine’s monks, teachers, coaches, and staff are genuinely engaged in the lives of their students. It is their desire to discover each student’s unique gifts and prepare them to meet the demands of higher education, succeed in the career of their choice, and to strive to be the best person possible. BC teaches boys and stands by them as they develop into men.
BC offers 45 Advanced Placement and Honors courses, the most in the area. Graduates from 2021 were accepted to many universities, including Air Force Academy, Duke, Harvard, Naval Academy, North Carolina, West Point, Vanderbilt, and the University of Chicago. The BC Class of 2021 had 29 Cadets accepted to Georgia and 11 accepted to Georgia Tech.
This year, the BC Class of 2022 has 19 seniors who have been accepted to Georgia and six accepted to Georgia Tech. And, for the second year in a row, a Cadet has been accepted to – and will attend – Harvard University.
For the past 36 years, Benedictine’s nationally recognized JROTC program has been in the top 20 percent in the nation. BC currently has nine graduates attending United States military service academies. Two graduates attend the United States Military Academy at West Point, two graduates attend the U.S. Naval Academy, two graduates attend the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, two graduates attend the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, and one graduate attends the U.S. Air Force Academy.
“Since I have been at BC, we have had several men join the military upon graduation, discern their calling toward priesthood and begin their own businesses right here in Savannah,” Knight said. “The thing I love about Benedictine Military School is that we teach young men how to be successful in all walks of life. While institutions love to spotlight the big-name schools, we cannot lose focus on those who enter the military, attend ROTC, or begin their own businesses.”
At Benedictine, 68 percent of its faculty is male, 65 percent hold advanced degrees, and 14 percent of the staff are BC graduates. An experienced faculty works closely with students (the average class size is 15) in newly renovated academic wings which feature next-generation classroom technology.
“At an institution like BC, success is rarely found in its facilities,” said Peter Newman, Benedictine’s Director of Curriculum. “Nevertheless, the addition of the Brown STEM Wing in 2017 created an undeniable academic ‘vibe’ in the hallways of the entire school that transcends any textbook or laptop. The profound commitment to the academic component of the comprehensively challenging BC program in this architecturally and technologically advanced facility has inspired both teaching and learning; and one exciting manifestation of this invigorated academic environment is the increasingly positive news in college and career decisions for our graduates.”
Starting in the 2022-23 academic year, Benedictine will provide each of its students with laptop computers.
“BC administrations have discussed our technology policy several times over the previous years and every year that we discussed it we felt that we could wait another year, and continue to evaluate its application, and to continue to evaluate how other schools have implemented one-to-one technology,” Benedictine Principal Jacob Horne said. “What became very apparent during COVID was the need for technology access amongst a significant percentage of our students, most especially as we continue to maximize the productivity of our online resources to include every Cadet’s Microsoft Office 365 account, and our continued emphasis on the use of our online learning management system called myBC.
“In addition, we’ve continued to have new educators who are relying more and more upon the use of our COWS (Computers On Wheels), which the BC community so generously supported several years ago during the auction,” Horne continued. “We felt that it was best to ensure that each of our Cadets could have guaranteed access to a laptop for whatever is asked of them to complete within the classroom experience. We would know of their abilities because we are providing those laptops; and, ultimately, we think that it’s going to enhance our curriculum and what we can do, knowing that they have these devices at hand. We will continue to adapt to what is needed for our 21st century education, and what is needed to further ensure our Cadets are successful in their future, regardless of where they go after BC.”
While providing quality academic and JROTC programs, Benedictine has had the No. 1 boys’ athletics program in South Georgia and has won 13 state championships in the last decade in baseball, clay target sports, football, lacrosse, Raider team, soccer, and tennis.
“Character, Spirituality, Purpose, and Brotherhood are at the core of the BC experience,” Newman said. “When a Cadet enters B-wing for their first day of school, our goal for that Cadet is to graduate with choices, and with a plan that he can be proud of earning. Creating that plan, with the care and assistance of family, teachers, and counselors along the way is every Cadet’s purpose. BC has always been guided by its unique mission, one that makes a deep commitment to the success of every student. Enabled by the 11:1 faculty – student ratio, BC’s teachers and counselors deeply care about their students and their colleagues as we all work together every day to meet the high standards created by that mission. So, it is no surprise that when an initiative such as ‘academics first,’ within the Forward Always Forward Capital Campaign, is embraced by the BC family, the results are not only exciting but also transformative.”
Drawing on the traditions of the past, living in the strength of the present, and preparing for the needs of the future, Benedictine Military School is a community of faith and learning, as well as a lifelong brotherhood.
“Beginning freshman year, we encourage students to get involved – find something they are passionate about,” Crossley said. “When students find their passion, they find purpose. Everything at BC is a team effort so all faculty/staff work together at each level to help guide and shape students. We all understand the importance of getting involved so if a student is not engaged, we try very hard as a team to engage them. If a student is not being challenged, we look for creative ways to challenge them. If a student needs something else, we look for ways to meet that need – whatever that need is. Benedictine is not the typical high school experience and students quickly learn that they are part of something bigger than themselves. How they contribute to the bigger picture is uniquely personal to each student, but collectively part of the shared brotherhood that is at the root of the Benedictine experience.
“When freshmen step on campus, we tell them to make the most of the next four years,” Crossley continued. “Everything they do (or don’t do) matters and they should look for ways to develop their strengths and strengthen their weaknesses. We guide them every step of the way and teach them to ask for help when they need it, and not to be afraid to step outside of their comfort zone, academically or athletically. As part of the Guidance Team, I like to think our goal is to help each student tap into their individual possibility (not just potential) so they understand what is possible and have options as they leave the safety of our school.”