Georgetown Prep’s spirit of service cultivated student’s outreach and his dreams for the future
May 15, 2017
At Georgetown Preparatory School in North Bethesda, Jacob Gerrish of the class of 2017 “has been one of Prep’s most outstanding and consistent students,” said the school’s headmaster, John Glennon Jr.
“Most impressively, he is an incredibly well-rounded scholar,” said Glennon, noting that the student had excelled in advanced math, science, English, Latin, Spanish, history, government and statistics. “He has always challenged himself to take as rigorous a course schedule as he can, and has always performed at a high level.”
This fall, Gerrish will attend Princeton, where he might major in public policy at the university, which is known for its Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.
His “ultimate dream,” he said, is to someday work on Capitol Hill.
The 18-year-old is the son of Jeffrey and Kelly Gerrish and earlier attended St. Louis School in Alexandria. The family now lives in the North Bethesda area. His father is an attorney, and Gerrish said growing up near the nation’s capital has helped spark his interest in being a public servant there.
“I believe Prep has cultivated my interest in service,” he said, noting the Jesuit ideals of educating “men for others” and thinking “first of people who stand at the edges of society, and to stand with them.”
Glennon noted that Gerrish has been “the first among his peers to take a leadership role” in many of Georgetown Prep’s service activities and also has been a leader in the school’s retreat program, “helping to guide the spiritual development of his peers and classmates.”
One of Gerrish’s favorite experiences at the Jesuit school has been serving with its Best Buddies chapter. This year, he has been the group’s president.
“The title exemplifies the mission of the whole organization,” he said. “The main feature is, you’re pairing up with someone with intellectual or developmental disabilities and breaking down barriers. Best Buddies is all about cultivating and making friendships.”
Gerrish noted that Best Buddies was founded by Anthony Shriver, a graduate of Georgetown Prep. Students at the school, joined by fellow volunteers from their sister school, Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart in Bethesda, hold monthly events, pairing with friends at parties or for games of bowling, or on trips to the zoo or museums, to hear music or just hang out together.
“I’ve been paired with a kid named Sam. He has autism,” said Gerrish, smiling. “It’s been so much fun hanging out with him. We went to a Nats game, (and have) gone swimming together. He’s an incredible guy (who) loves to laugh.”
Gerrish added that with Best Buddies, “It’s the connection that matters.” He said his experiences volunteering with the group have reinforced his belief in “the inherent, intrinsic dignity all human beings share. It’s the call of Jesus to recognize those who’ve been unrecognized for centuries, to remember the people others forget. Jesus spent time with people ostracized with society,” he said, noting the message of Jesus’s greatest commandment, “to love your neighbor as yourself.”
The Georgetown Prep senior has joined fellow students volunteering with Habitat for Humanity, working on houses for the poor in Washington, D.C., where their jobs included helping to put up a fence, painting walls, cleaning up property and caulking around windows.
Another highlight of his volunteering was joining a group of Prep students and teachers for a service immersion trip in the summer following his junior year. They took part in the Kino Border Initiative at an Arizona town located on the border with Mexico. Each day, they would cross the border and serve at an outreach program in Mexico.
The students would serve breakfast and dinner to immigrants from Mexico and Central America who had been deported from the United States after fleeing there to escape the drug cartels, violence and poverty plaguing the region.
Gerrish said the most important part of the service program was listening to the stories of the migrants, who spoke about the difficulties in their lives, and also how they relied on their faith. The students also learned about the complexities of the immigration issue by talking with ranchers and border patrol officers. The main goal of their effort, he said, was to “show migrants we care and to stand with them.”
Another experience of solidarity came when he and Prep students and teachers joined the 2016 Ignatian Teach-In in Arlington. They were among 1,600 young people from Jesuit institutions around the country to attend the gathering, where they prayed together and discussed how they could live out Catholic teachings on social justice.
The student also participated in extracurricular academic activities at Georgetown Prep. Earlier this year, Gerrish finished in third place in the D.C. Regional Brain Bee, a competition dealing with neuroscience.
“The brain is the last frontier in the study of the human body,” he said, adding that he is interested in questions like, “Why do we think the way we think, and where does consciousness arise from?”
As he prepares to graduate from Georgetown Prep, Gerrish said he will continue to be shaped by the school’s “sense of community and brotherhood,” a spirit that he hopes to extend to the people he meets in college.
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