For Todd and Julie Hershbine, whether or not to provide their three children with a Catholic education was never much of a debate.
Todd, a State College native, attended Our Lady of Victory Catholic School until sixth grade—which was the highest level of Catholic education available in the area at the time-before attending public high school. Julie attended Catholic schools for the entirety of her education, ultimately attending Saint Francis University in Loretto, PA, where she and Todd met and began their relationship.
“Both of our parents were very adamant that a Catholic education was very important. However, I had the opportunity to see it from both sides—experiencing public education and Catholic education,” explained Todd. “I wish that Saint Joseph’s Catholic Academy was an option back in the 80s when I was in school!”
While it was not an option for Todd at the time, when it came time for their children, Brynn, Joshua and Tara, to attend school, Todd and Julie agreed that Catholic education was the ideal choice for their family.
Today, Brynn is a junior at SJCA, and Joshua is in his freshman year, while Tara is currently in seventh grade at OLVCS, and Todd and Julie are enjoying the positive impact of SJCA on their two high schoolers.
“For my part, I love the personal interest the faculty, staff and coaches take in my kids,” said Julie. “They know them well enough to realize if they are having a bad day or if something seems to be weighing on their minds. Not only do they recognize it, but they go a step further by pulling them aside and saying, ‘You don’t seem like yourself today, can I help?’”
Todd added, “Brynn will get up early in the morning and drive to Saint Joe’s to meet her instructor, and that’s something that I ever even thought of doing when I was in public school. When I went on to college, one of the things you were expected to do was take it upon yourself and go talk to the teacher. The teacher wasn’t there to spoon feed you; I think her adjustment to college will be a lot easier than mine was. I think the education is tailored to the individual at SJCA.”
In addition to receiving a top-notch education at SJCA, Brynn and Joshua have been able to pursue all of the activities and extracurricular activities that interest them.
“One of the things that I like so much about SJCA is that the school is helping my kids to become a well-rounded person,” said Todd. “I think in the public schools you’re almost encouraged to do one thing. If you’re really good at sports, that’s all you do. If you’re really good at theatre, that’s all you do. The idea of a liberal arts education where you get a little bit of everything seems to be not as prevalent. At SJCA, they’re able to be in sports; they’re able to do clubs and activities after school.”
Ultimately, Todd and Julie believe that SJCA is shaping and preparing their children for the future.
“SJCA really prepares you for the next step,” concluded Todd. “I do believe that once they go to college, it’s going to be their faith and their study habits that are going to sustain them.”
Q&A with the Hershbine Siblings
Q: What do you like most about attending Saint Joseph’s Catholic Academy?
Brynn: I really enjoy all the teachers. It is evident that every teacher at SJCA is passionate about the subject they teach and that makes being in their classes enjoyable. I also appreciate how they care about every student. It is really comforting to know that, if I am having a tough day, I have so many teachers I can talk to.
Josh: I like the very personalization of the learning environment. I feel as if the teachers really know the students and are open to suggestions. The small classes feel more like families.
Q: What does getting a Catholic education mean to you?
Brynn: I have been in a Catholic school my entire life. This means I have grown up knowing all the basic prayers, saints and rules of the Catholic Church. SJCA makes sure I continue learning and practicing all the values I have learned in the past while adding new ideas. I think it is important to continue growing in my faith life, and I am grateful I can attend a school that supports this.
Josh: Getting a virtuous education has always been a top priority for me. Schools can fill our heads with a bunch of book knowledge, but it means nothing if we can’t express our beliefs and learn to be upstanding members of society.
Q: What activities do you participate in?
Brynn: This year will be my third year of girls’ basketball. This is also my first year on the girls’ cross-country team. I am also an equestrian outside of school, and SJCA is very supportive of my achievements in this activity.
Josh: I am all about the running. I am on the cross-country team and look forward to winter and spring track. As far as clubs go, I am in the Cookies, Coffee and Catholicism Club with Dr. Merrick.
Q: What are your future aspirations?
Brynn: I really want to work in the medical field, preferably pharmacy. I have faith that SJCA will prepare me to attend the college that can help me achieve this goal.
Josh: My current focus is on grades and being the best teammate I can be, but someday I hope to run for a D1 college.
Q: What advice do you have for future Saint Joseph’s Catholic Academy students?
Brynn: My advice to a future SJCA student is to get to know the teachers because that can make school ten times better. I also think it is important to attend school events to interact with students of all grade levels. For me personally, as a freshman I thought it was great to have senior friends because they were people I could look up to who already knew the ins and outs of SJCA. I still continue to look up to the older students.
Josh: Put yourself in the best possible position to succeed. If you have a test, study for it; if you have a competition, train for it. Hard work and preparation pays off.