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What separates Chaminade Julienne from other Catholic high schools in the Dayton area is the pervasive commitment to social justice and investing in our community. CJ’s socioeconomically and racially diverse student population and location in the heart of downtown Dayton are what set it apart, and above, comparable area institutions. As I close in on a decade as an alumnus, I see that these values have not wavered and are the reason I’m writing this essay.
I entered CJ in the fall of 2008. This year lay in the heart of an incredibly difficult time for our country, with pains especially magnified in places like Dayton. That December, the million-square-foot General Motors plant in Moraine rolled its last SUV off the assembly line, costing thousands of workers their jobs and setting off a deleterious ripple effect in the local economy. The next year, NCR, an anchor in the Dayton economy for more than a century, moved 8 hours down I-75, leaving a gaping hole in the city it abandoned. The leadership of CJ saw these massive shifts and, rather than racing for the hills, chose to invest in our downtown campus. More than ten years after the worst economic crash in 80 years, the city of Dayton is rebounding and that is thanks in part to a school that chose to serve as a courageous catalyst for investment.
I have always held so much pride in CJ’s diversity. When I tell non-Daytonians that I went to a private high school, I’m often met with skeptically arched eyebrows from folks imagining an elite, homogenous upbringing, clad in navy blazers and institutional privilege. I take honor in disabusing that notion, instead describing a school which serves as a microcosm for the demographics of the community it inhabits. My classmates hailed from 50+ zip codes with some friends that walked to school from their downtown homes, and others (including me) who drove in from farms miles away. It did not matter how you looked, what you believed, or much money your parents had – you were a member of the CJ family when you walked our halls.
I have taken the values instilled in me by CJ and have sought to live them out every day of my life as an alumnus. After graduating, I attended The Ohio State University, studying political science and business in the honors program, a rigorous curriculum for which CJ prepared me well. Columbus provided ample opportunities to work at the intersection of state and local politics; I interned at the Ohio Statehouse, with a public employees’ labor union, and at the Columbus Chamber of Commerce. I also had the privilege of working for the state of Ohio at the federal level, spending a summer in Washington, D.C., interning in the office of Senator Sherrod Brown. In each of these positions in public policy, I had the opportunity to live out the Chaminade Julienne mantra of service to others.
After earning my bachelor’s degree, following a stint working for Oracle, a technology firm, I moved to Washington, D.C. to work in the office of Congressman Ro Khanna, who represents the Silicon Valley area of northern California. In this role, I’m tasked with crafting federal policy on health care, education, and political reform. The first two tenets of the “Profile of a CJ Graduate” are that a CJ graduate is a “life-long learner” and is “service-oriented.” In my position in the Congressman’s office, I am blessed with the opportunity to learn every day and serve my country. I am also able to give back to my local community through my position on the junior board of Everybody Wins DC, a reading mentorship organization serving elementary students in our nation’s capital. I can draw a direct line from my experience as part of the CJ Little Sibs program to my passion for working with children today.
Ultimately, I plan to one day return to Dayton and invest my experiences in the city and the region that invested so much in me. Dayton is the birthplace of aviation and an incubator for innovation and the educational institutions that birthed/led to/built CJ has been a catalyst for effective change in the city for more than a century. Because of CJ, I have been able to see the part that I can play in lifting up the place that lifted me. Because of CJ, I know the value of diversity and service. Because of CJ, I am inspired to continuously learn and take that which I’ve learned and give it right back to those around me.
Will McKelvey, Class of 2012
Posted January 9, 2020